Era of Rebellion - Navigation

Alice Bee and Christopher Levy.
Zero years after the Battle of Yavin (35:F3:5) in the Alderaan system: Delaya (Marcus Rodney's chalet) and Nerf Herder and the Essesia system: Nerf Herder and Warspite.
Lieutenant Allegra Ames, Lord Marcus Rodney, Zara Ta'em, and Doctor Pilaq Tohan.

Zara liked how life was going. She didn't have to hide anything from Marcus. To the contrary, she could be completely open. He wasn't going to suddenly judge her for some hidden identity because she had never kept anything from him... Well, minus her *real* age. So, let's amend that. Zara kept few things secret from her lover. Their life wasn't limited to being domestic. She knew she always had a partner in crime. One that was ready to leap into the next great adventure at a moment's notice. Lately, Zara had been planning that very next trip. She wanted to stay far, *far* away from Delaya where her future in-laws awaited to burn her at the stake. Her eyes were on a mission of her expertise; thieving. It was natural for Zara to want to flaunt her skills (and her body, for that matter) in front of her future hubby. All of her planning had begun to align when she started to feel like crap. She exhibited no fever, only a case of extreme queasiness. It had begun the previous day and squeezed into the next one, the very day they were supposed to leave on Zara's adventure. She supposed that was going to have to wait.

And so, the young woman ultimately ended up seated in an armed chair near the fireplace. A fire was burning, heating up the whole sitting room area of their bedroom. Half a dozen digital screens hung in the air around her. Zara was working. She was selling some of the treasures she'd acquired over the years that had no place in their house. She was also digging into every tidbit of information that existed on Zara Ta'em. She didn't want her in-laws digging up anything noteworthy. On a final tab, she had the website up for a wedding dress designer. Marriage had been far from her mind before Marcus. Now she wanted to plan the perfect, *private* affair for the two of them. Of course, she hadn't brought that up yet.

As Marcus' eyes opened the first sensation that entered his mind was pain. Pain in his left shoulder blade from where the Trandoshan they had recently hunted had violently struck him. He was getting old as he entered his 40s and each year seemed to him stiffen him more. As he outstretched his arms to stretch he let out a groan of both pain and pleasure as his sore, aching muscles stretched for the first time that day. As he looked to his left he observed that Zara had already woken and moved on and that his once honed senses had failed to awaken him to her not so subtle movement ... a clear indication he was becoming increasingly more comfortable with the woman who had become his fiancé. As he rose from the bed, a stinging sensation ran through his body as his feet came in contact with the cold floor. No matter how long they had spent in the chalet he still not remembered to step into a pair of sleepers in the morning. With no grace or subtlety to his movements, he unceremoniously began to descend the stairs in search for his would-be wife. "Zara?" he called out into the morning air, as he wrapped his robe around his muscular form a bit tighter to keep the cold at bay.

She didn't like that he'd been hurt so badly during their last outing. Zara wanted to redo his armor entirely. It was her way of being overprotective with the man she loved. Bounty hunting was no joke. There were few times where her occupation required killing. It was infinitely more common with his. She was only just becoming attuned to the hunt. Her blue eyes flashed through the screens. She rapidly took in information as they moved before her eyes. One hand hung in the air while the other remained close to her body. She was drinking a tea that was supposedly used to aid in nausea. It seemed to be having the opposite effect on the human. Ultimately, she deposited the cup on the table beside the chair. There was a piece of toast next to it that looked untouched. Zara hadn't bothered to completely dress herself this morning. Like him, she was wrapped up in a big, warm fleece robe. She sat Indian style as to keep her feet warm. She had worked hard to slither her way out of bed quietly while he slept. He needed the extra downtime after all.

The sound of her name was immediately answered with her voice. "Marcus?" She called out. The screens around her began to disappear as she brought her feet out from beneath her. She slid them into her slippers before standing up. *Ugh*. She stood too quickly. Nausea rocked her world again and then it settled. In fact, it began to slip away entirely as she made her way towards him. She was there, waiting for him at the base of the stairs with a smile on her face. "Good morning, love. How's your shoulder?" Zara was concerned. She worried for her old man. Her arms wrapped around his waist at the first opportunity. "Come with me. The sitting room is toasty already." She promised him warmth while one arm drifted away. She guided him, eyeing his shoulder. There was no way he wasn't in pain.

His eyes glanced over the screens as they dissipated, noting how much more adept at multitasking she was than he. The sound of her voice seemed to subdue much of the aches and pains that had settled in over the night in the cold upstairs bedroom, which was in desperate need of a space heater. "It's fine," he said, in an obvious, yet harmless lie. As he closed the distance between them, his arm quickly moved around her to take her in a warm embrace, nearly sweeping her off her feet in a flourish that was not fit for a woman of her condition. His face quickly descended upon hers, placing a kiss a tad bit too rough upon her much younger lips, as he was still lusting over the teen despite the time they had together. "I see you're up early," he commented, stating the obvious, as he allowed her to guide him towards the promised warmth of the sitting room. They had traded warmth and comfort in the city for the privacy that the north provided, but despite the chill he found it preferable to his parents and the ever present security forces.

The north's chill had nothing on the cold stares from his mother. Zara felt like the weather protected them from ever being found by Marcus' parents. This fairy tale would eventually end, but Zara liked it while it existed. She knew he was lying about the pain. Her little nose scrunched up. She intended to call him out on it before he decided to spin her world around. The embrace was expected, but it came so quickly that her head was twirling again. Her pale cheeks became even more pale. It was so warm in his arms... and so queasy. Zara was clinging to him to make sure she didn't lose her footing like some drunk. "*Liar, liar, pants on fire.*" She whispered into his ear. Busted.

And distracted. Zara was beginning to wonder if pain turned him on. She had put extra effort into not jumping his bones lately. Yet here he was, instigating with a rough, wonderful kiss. Sick as she was, she still wanted his body *all* over hers. "Mhm. I wasn't feeling well this morning. I didn't want to toss and turn until I woke you." She took him to the sitting room. Rather than perch herself on the armed chair, she directed him to the couch. Zara didn't join him immediately. Instead, she leaned over him and kissed him. Short, sweet, yet passionate as any other. "Stay put. I'll be back." From her mouth, those words were so sensual. The little thief only disappeared from the sitting room for a short time. She gathered up one of her many medical kits before returning to her hubby-to-be. Zara quietly seated herself in his lap. Her hands moved to the left side of his robe. She exposed his injury with one hand while opening up her kit with the other. "Let's have a looksee." Zara wasn't wearing anything underneath her robe. The heat of her body was there for him to enjoy. Her eyes looked up at his. "While you were busy snoozing away, I was working on wedding plans. How does the idea of a private ceremony sit with you?"

Marcus grimaced as she went to work on his wound like the amateur nurse that she would need to become given the nature of their careers. "See. It's fine," he reassured her, although he was unable to see how black and blue the area had become, or how tender the flesh had become. As she began to discuss the wedding plans it brought his mind quickly back to reality, and he shifted uncomfortably beneath her, as yet unaware of the limits of her dress. "A private ceremony sounds great to me..." he said to her, but with a degree of trepidation in his voice that clearly showed he was holding back. "But I fear my family will demand a ceremonial affair of state full of pomp and circumstance..." he admitted, reluctantly, offering his best attempt at a reassuring smile, that he was sure wold do little to ease her discomfort at the news.

It was tempting to jab her fingers into his shoulder just to prove a point. As much as he might like to believe otherwise, the man was human. Injuries happened. Zara cared too much to hurt him. She went along with her work. She intended to clean the wounded area and apply a new bacta patch to inspire a quick healing process. His shifting worried her. Was he trying to get away? Zara was still waiting for the shoe to drop. Her life had never been like this. It only seemed natural that it would all come crashing down around her feet. Yet, Marcus remained. She didn't like the sound of some crazy wedding. "I was afraid you were going to say that." She didn't know if it was wise to completely stab her in-laws in the back like that either. Her touch remained gently and soft while she continued to think. "It is irrational to do both? I want us to have our time to shine together. I want to whisper sweet *somethings* into your ear and enjoy a loveellyy lengthy amount of time in bed with you after all is said and done. We both know I'll probably pass out from wine consumption at any ceremony involving your parents." If sex sold, maybe sex could sway him over to Zara's craziness. Between her work, she leaned in to kiss him once more. Talking about marriage made her conscience hit the surface. She hadn't told Marcus how old she was. In his mind, she was a gorgeous 20-something. She wasn't a youthful teenager who currently carried the future of his family in her womb. The more she thought about it, the worse she felt. Her age could slash every plan they had. It could be the final straw.

"At the end of the day it is our day, and my family must come second," Marcus quickly explained to her, in his best efforts to reassure her. His arm moved around her tightly, squeezing at the warm, soft flesh that only youth possessed. "I am an afterthought really. A second born son. It is my brother and his children that should inherit this ... if not for galactic politics that is," he said, rambling on about the complicated state of family affairs that so far they had only touched on. He sighed contently as she worked on his bruise and he felt a safety and comfort in her arms that did not exist anywhere else in the galaxy. "If what you want is a private ceremony then we can arrange that, and let the rest of the planet be damned," he said, moving his head towards the side of her neck to place a series of gentle kisses that gradually evolved into more intense playful bites.

Zara understood his family had both paws in the cookie jar that is politics. She understood the obligations he had to his family, even if they did come second to his new family. She hated it when he called himself an *afterthought*. "You aren't an afterthought. Good riddance you don't have to inherit all of the bull shit. We can have our lives without political interferences." Unless her age scared him away. Zara was under the impression that any child of their own would be just as overlooked as Marcus was. She believed that she could keep their growing family away from it all. Ultimately, her love did make her feel a lot better about somethings...and worse about others. He was sweet enough to constantly put his neck out on the line for her. Zara began to feel guiltier for not revealing her age. She could visualize him yelling at her before walking out of her life forever. That idea made her feel *miserable*. The kind of miserable where she let out a soft whimper when he began his slew of affection on her neck. She *loved* Marcus. She couldn't not tell him the truth. As she finished her work, Zara dipped her head down. Her nose nudged him affectionately to urge him to look at her. She looked like she was going to cry...or throw up. "Y-You're so good to me, Marcus... And I'm so horrible to you. I haven't been honest with you about my age!" She was suddenly rambling. "Please don't leave me. I don't even know why I did it. I guess I didn't want to lose you, but I might lose you anyway." She looked closer to tears. "I'm not 25. I'm sixteen!" She blurted out.

As Marcus listened to the young firebrand chastise his family a contented grin crept upon his face as he watched her exhibit the defiance neither him, nor his brother, had been able to muster in their many years of servitude. But before she could say another word she began to panic and unleashed the verbal equivalent of a proton torpedo upon him, breaching his shields and striking him to his very core. As she spoke his eyes went wide, and became glazed over as if he were a doll. His mouth hung open in the manner of a fish swimming aimlessly in the sea, but no words escaped his lips. Eventually he began to blink in a vain attempt to focus his vision and reveal something different than the vision that lay before him. He had seen her ... all of her ... and on many occasions and he never had suspected she could be so young. Had they committed a crime? A thousand thoughts went through his mind, racing and competing against one another. Among them was the taboo nature of the relationship and the lustful, dangerous temptation of her age ... there was certainly something *naught* about it. But regardless of her age she was still Zara, and his hands instinctively moved to her robe, brushing it open to expose the naked flesh that was only subtly hid beneath. His left hand moved to cup at her bosom, the roughness of his hands from years of blaster use contrasting against her smooth skin. His face again moved towards hers, pressing his lips against her own, his tongue darting between them in a feverish attack ... he could not control himself.

The world was over. The planet had stopped spinning. With Zara's last words, she severed her own heart with a knife. There was silence. While thoughts blasted through his mind, the same was happening in her own. She thought of *begging* Marcus not to leave her. Despite her age, she was confident that she'd make both a good wife for him and a good mother. She was ready to defend herself to him, to prove that they belonged together. She was afraid he felt betrayed...or like this was some gaping hole where more lies would come out of. Poor Zara had begun to look as green as a Twi'lek. The atmosphere around them shifted so rapidly. She was losing her mind. She was in love with him. The sleeves of her robe instantly darted down her small shoulders. Her body was just as it always was; smooth, nude, and beautiful. The nausea didn't tear itself away from her immediately, though he certainly opened the floodgates of lust. Want rushed over her the second his rough hand cupped her breast. She sighed. He *wasn't* leaving her. Her hands clasped either side of his face so she could kiss him with every bit of passion in her body. Her tongue, always the happy dance partner, came to greet his. Somewhere in the heat of the moment, clearance settled in Zara's mind. At that moment, she couldn't be more sure that she was pregnant. All the sickness that had been going on went hand-in-hand with missing her period. Marcus wasn't just going to marry her, he was going to father a child with her. She kissed him harder. Her hips wiggled until her robe opened up completely.

Everything was moving quickly. With a few touches, their clothing (or lack thereof) was gone. Her pleasantly warm body touched with his. She *wanted* him. When didn't she? "Marcus!" It was all so sudden and rough. Any other day but today, rough and fast would have been her preference. Today, today Zara was close enough to losing her cookies without his assistance. The up-down motion brought the nausea on in strong waves. Did she bother to stop him? Hell no. This was Zara...aka Miss Invincible. If you told her otherwise, she'd laugh. Marcus was the one prone to disaster in their relationship, right?

But that mindset was slowly receding in her head. Marcus had a gleeful look of complete pleasure. Right now, Zara looked to be his opposite. She looked sick. "Oh my god, Marcus..." It wasn't so much an exclamation of pleasure, but a warning to get him to stop. Her hands, positioned at his shoulders, gripped him as her second warning. She was spinning. She was moving up and down. She was...She was ... *vomiting*. Zara did everything she could to make sure none actually got on him. Instead, she dove over the arm of the couch. Her upper body dangled over the arm while her petite body convulsed. When she finished making a mess on the floor, she remained with half of her body still positioned on him, the other half hiding away because now she felt sick *and* embarrassed. Her cheeks were red, though pale at the same time. Her hands hid her face. "Shitttt... I'm sorry..." She mumbled. Okay, *this* was going to be the relationship killer. "I haven't been feeling good lately." She hoped her confession would soften the blow, or open his heart up to still loving her.

Marcus was in the zone and therefore had no idea what was happening with Zara and her increasingly nauseated situation. All he could feel was her her convulsions as she started to vomit, which he first interpreted as an orgasm, and threatened to prematurely bring him over the edge himself. "Ugh. Zara," he murmured, eyes closed, head hung back as she surged forward to spare him any ill effect of her illness. The sudden and unexpected motion caused her to clench down on his shaft in a sudden, early, and unexpectedly caused him to erupt in a massive orgasm that filled her already populated womb. It was only then that he opened his eyes and saw the girl hunched over, puking her guts out, and a look of alarm came over his much older face. "Zara!" he exclaimed, as he immediately stopped thrusting, and placed his arms around her in a reassuring gesture to hold her against him and steady her. "What's wrong?" he asked, sounding genuinely concerned, before bringing a hand to her head to wipe away matted, sweaty locks of hair to expose her messy face. Poor girl, he thought to himself, as he gradually came down from his orgasmic high and returned to the reality of the situation.

Every day was an adventure in their lives, wasn't it? She didn't find it weird that her convulsions led to his orgasm. In fact, it briefly took her mind off of how crappy she felt. No sooner had he finished did he dive right into the role of her sweet, wonderful husband. Well, almost husband! He coaxed her away from the edge of the couch through his touches. Zara settled back in his lap where she rode the rest of the nausea out. She knew what the answer was to his question. Her body, apparently as fertile as a female rabbit's, had decided it was time for them to conceive. The teenage girl pulled away enough from him to look at his face. "I...I think I'm pregnant." She told him. "I'm a few weeks late from my period. I've been feeling nauseated a lot over the past few days. I haven't done a test yet." She figured as soon as she tested herself for pregnancy, she'd find out that she wasn't. Teenager or not, Zara wanted to be a mother. The more she loved Marcus, the more she loved the thought of having a family with him.

An unparalleled wave of shock overcame the middle-aged bounty hunter when the teenage vixen revealed the suspicions of her pregnancy. He looked at her, his face as frozen as their arctic surroundings, unable to offer any kind of response as he simply gazed upon her. This suddenly became complicated ... the wedding would have to happen much quicker than intended and his parents would surely involve themselves, particularly if the child turned out to be a potential male heir. All of the life he had attempted to avoid the past three decades now found itself crashing down upon him, but those thoughts would be left for later ... for now there was her. He brought his hand up towards the side of her face, brushing her cheek affectionately as he continued to gaze longingly into her eyes. "We have to be sure, but we also have to do so in a way that won't alert my family," he said to her, stressing the importance of secrecy given the over complicated nature of his standing on this world. "I think I know someone who can help," he said, as the machinations began to form in his head, from years of subterfuge to conceal his bounty hunter identity from those around him. He leaned forward to press a kiss upon that face of hers, whilst unbeknownst to him his other hand moved to gently stroke her stomach, where their unborn child currently dwelled.

It seemed to be in a woman's nature to overthink *everything*. Had she thought about the wedding, his parents, and their chaotic future? Of course. Her biggest concern was, after confirming it, hiding her pregnancy from her in-laws as long as possible. Somehow, she couldn't imagine his mother being particularly pleased that a sixteen-year-old girl was pregnant with her grandbaby. The wedding needed to happen while it wasn't visible. If they had a public wedding, the appearance of her baby bump would cause a backlash on his family's honor. There was a second where, as she sat in his lap, she began to fear that he might not be pleased with the news. She was beginning to look more green. Just as she was ready to have round two of vomiting, his hand brought her away from the edge. She felt soothed by him. Her blue eyes flickered towards his face. Zara cringed, imagining his mother bursting down the door into their home. Her head nodded slowly. She didn't want anyone to find out without their knowledge. Thankfully, Marcus had a safe way of finding out. "Who?" She asked. "Can we leave right away?"

His other hand inspired her thoughts to move elsewhere. There was something pleasant about the way his hand stroked her stomach. For a minute, she found herself standing in the future; Her, Marcus, and their baby. The moment was short, yet warm and wonderful. Zara sighed, nuzzling into him. She forced herself to let go of the stress. It would only spoil her pregnancy, or just make it more complex. Her hand joined his on her stomach. "I love you. If I really am pregnant, it'll be one of the greatest things to ever happen in my life." Of course, meeting Marcus was number one. Nothing would be possible without him. With reluctance, Zara began to rise from him. She needed to dress.

Marcus gingerly lifted her off his lap, letting out the softest sigh as he shifted her weight off his most delicate reasons. "Of course we can leave right away," he reassured her, as he helped her back onto her feet, treating her as delicately as possible as he began to overreact to safeguard his fiancé and, potentially, his child. "I love you too," he said, almost as an afterthought as his mind was instead fixated on how to get her to the only doctor he could trust. He leaned forward to place a kiss upon her young lips once again, almost immediately wishing he had taken the time to wipe away the vomit before he did so ... he was not thinking clearly. "Wait here," he said, as he broke the kiss and brought a hand up to wipe at his own lips. In an instant he surged up the stairs to begin the process of changing into something more formal and gathering the clothes she would need for their journey. Before too long he returned, his tunic only half-buttoned and untucked from his pants, whose belt had missed a loop. His boots were unlaced and he was something of a mess, and rather than carrying practical clothes he was carrying more formal of a dress for her, along with her snow bunny attire to brave the cold they would endure as they exited the chalet to head for his ship.

Zara felt excited and nauseous. They were going to find out if a tiny Marcus-Zara monster existed in her womb or not. She noted how gentle he was with her. Yup, Marcus was already father of the year. She needed to make him a 'Best Dad in the Galaxy' mug. She didn't think twice about kissing him back...and then she did. She gave him an apologetic look. She hoped this taste of morning sickness was all she would get. She also hoped that no one ever told the story of how they found out she was pregnant. *Yeah, she totally puked while we were having sex. It was great!* Except not. They'd need to leave that one out of the scrapbook. She only briefly left the sitting room to wash her mouth off in a nearby restroom. She was there, anally looking over a digital screen as she tried to self-diagnose herself as pregnant or broken.

He was so disheveled when he came back. It was cute. "Thanks, hun." She said, taking the dress from him. It didn't matter what the clothing was. All she cared was that it covered herself decently enough. Zara dressed quickly too. The dress was lengthy. It hugged her body comfortably, showcasing her flat stomach that would be round sooner than later. She slid into her boots as well as her thick, furry jacket. She didn't try to brush her hair. Instead, she brought the hood up over her platinum hair so only Marcus knew that she wasn't put together. Before they left, she took the time to button his tunic and lace his boots. "We're a mess without each other." She smiled. "Let's go find out if your super sperm did the trick."

It was just as cold was it always was outside. The icy wind whipped through the land. Zara darted towards his ship quickly with her arms crossed over her breasts. Since throwing up, she began to feel a lot more normal. Granted, she wouldn't be eating any time soon. Inside his ship, she first armed herself with a blaster. It was kept in the ship for emergency purposes only. It made her feel better to always carry a weapon. Armed, she settled into a seat. "Who's your friend? Should I be worried?" Nothing could be worse than his parents.

Marcus was quick to escort her from their remote chalet into the icy wind that swept across the frozen tundra and nearly prompted him to turn around and retreat inside. As they neared his transport, the Nerf Herder, he was quick to lower the ramp so that they could enter the relative warmth the small ship provided. As much as he wished she would remain in the coat forever, it was much too cold for him to act on the impulses that it stirred within him. "Of course you should be worried!" he said with a smirk, once they were safely in the transport. He was quick to close the ramp behind them, before he moved towards the cockpit of the vessel to begin the preflight procedure. After strapping himself in his hands quickly moved over the controls to power the vessel's main reactor. The process took longer than normal because of the inhospitable conditions, but eventually he was able to fire the repulsor engines to lift the transport off the frozen surface. "Are you strapped in?" he asked, nervously, as his eyes were focused more on her than the piloting, which caused him to nearly crash into the top of the chalet as he began accelerating towards the upper atmosphere. It was hard for him to concentrate given the news that he might be piloting his child for the first time ... he had to have an answer.

That furry coat would make an appearance later. Once they knew, once all their questions were answered, then Zara would happily seduce her fiancé. This time, she'd keep her vomit to herself (promise!). She took the time to strap herself in before he began takeoff procedure. Randomly, she wondered if they should get a *Baby on Board* bumper sticker. No sooner had she snickered at her own stupid joke did Marcus attempt to ram the Nerf Herder into their home. Her hands fell to the arm rests, using the like an oh-shit handle. "Yes! Don't worry about me!" She squeaked. "Focus on piloting and don't make me throw up again!" The last part was said with a hint of sarcasm. She had no idea where they were going, who they were going to see, and how on earth they would keep her pregnancy secret. She decided to change subjects so he wouldn't worry about the potential baby in her womb. Her fingers brushed over his arm slowly. "I think I found the perfect wedding dress this morning. It's pretty risqué. Something you don't want your family to see me in." Apparently she was ready to tease him into a round two. Was Zara a horrible person or what?!

The Nerf Herder emerged from hyperspace in the Essesia system and almost immediately found itself amongst a swarm of Imperial TIE fighters. Marcus eyes went wide as he sent the craft in an evasive maneuver to avoid colliding with one of the TIEs. "Forgot how busy it got around here, darling," he said to Zara, as he began to broadcast the ship's Alderaanian transponder in order to gain passage through the picket lines. In the distance through the viewport lay an alarming display of Imperial might with nearly a dozen light cruisers and a massive Imperial Star Destroyer at the center of it all. Slowly and steadily the transport made its way towards its destination, being extra careful not to draw the unwanted ire of the Imperials. "It's a bit of an extreme to go for a pregnancy test, but one thing's for certain ... my parents won't be alerted," he said, as he reached across to put a reassuring squeeze on the girl. The time in hyperspace had been *eventful* and only now had his heart began to beating normally. He was still flushed red, and his hair was slightly matted and loose clumps of loose fur from her coat were seemingly *everywhere*.

There were effective ways to take one's mind off of certain just happened to be at the top of the list for Zara. The trip went by at the blink of an eye when she was all wrapped up in Marcus. Whatever concerns she had about the pregnancy test were gone. She felt clear headed and healthy. She was also a little sex mess. Her hair was all over the place. Her coat had slipped down her arms. She didn't remember strapping herself back into her seat, yet she had done just that. Ecstasy still pumped through her body as Marcus began to descend to the planet. The TIE fighters seemed to come out of nowhere. They reminded her of her own personal vendetta against the Imperial army. Her stomach jumped as he maneuvered away from the TIE fighters, but settled without making her feel sick again. She tossed a smile towards him. "It's okay. Less attention will be drawn to us that way."

She didn't want to begin to think about how they would tell his parents. In fact, Zara found it easier to think of the ways they wouldn't tell his parents. "That's the best news I've heard all day. Once your parents find out, you're going to end up as my 24 seven bodyguard." Were they that crazy? His squeeze was reassuring. The fact was that only Marcus, Zara, and the good doctor would know the truth. Her hand brushed over his. "I can't wait to find out. Are you excited too?" She hadn't been in the Essesia system in some time. She also didn't have a go-to doctor, so she was grateful he had someone in mind. If Marcus trusted the doctor, then so did she. Hopefully that frumpy lady wouldn't catch wind of their bundle of joy.

Unexpectedly, rather than descend to the planet Esseles, the Nerf Herder instead found itself ascending into the massive dorsal hangar bay of the Imperial Star Destroyer. "Depending on the gender they may assign you some serious bodyguards ... perhaps even your least favorite person," he said, reminding of the guardswoman she had a previous run in with. "Don't worry," he said, arching his eyebrows at her, in an attempt to be comforting, but in fact he was quite worried himself. As the transport touched down on the flight deck of the massive Imperial warships, he swallowed before exhaling a deep breath and locking his eyes squarely on hers. "Breath. Just breath," he said, as much to himself, as to her, before unstrapping himself from his seat. Outside the craft an Imperial officer and a squad of Stormtroopers had gathered, but Marcus had this handled ... or so he hoped.

I gotta admit, now was not the prime time for surprises. It made sense that his doctor was on Esseles, not on an effing *Imperial Star Destroyer*. It was probably good that he had never explained his plans to her, otherwise he would have carried her onto the Nerf Herder while she tried to escape. She looked sick the instant he changed course. "Marcus..." Why were they docking here? Imperial soldiers had killed her family, destroyed her home, and ruined a good portion of her life. She didn't like what he had said either...*depending on the gender, they may assign you some serious bodyguards*. Zara didn't know how royalty worked. They had some reverse-Aladdin thing going on here. Marcus was Jasmine, the princess who left her palace to life normal life. Zara was the street rat, only she didn't have an awesome genie, monkey, or a magic carpet. Oh no, whatever gender, no one was going to get to their baby. This little Mama wasn't helpless.

She couldn't help being worried right now. She unbuckled herself slowly. He had to remind her to breathe. "There's going to be a mess of Stormtroopers out there..." This, right here, was their leap of faith. The hatch of the Nerf Herder slowly opened. Sure enough, there stood the squad of Stormtroopers complete with an Imperial officer. Every Stormtrooper held their blasters like they were prepared to fire. Even if Zara could reach her weapon, she'd be long gone before she shot someone. Her arm hooked in Marcus' instantly. She wasn't talking. No way!

Marcus reached out with his hand to take hers into a tight grasp, leading her down the ramp into the midst of the Stormtroopers. He cleared his throat, lifting his chin prominently and glaring towards the deck officer. "Lord Marcus Rodney of Delaya," he said, introducing himself, sounding incredibly pompous and not the fun-loving scoundrel that Zara had come to know. His brother was in command of this region and he hoped that the mere mention of the name would be enough to send the junior officer quaking in their boots. "I need to see Doctor Tohan on an urgent family matter," he explained, without going into greater detail, giving Zara's hand a tight squeeze to boost her confidence as he spoke.

Lieutenant Allegra Ames stood before them dressed in her incredibly maintained Imperial uniform. The young woman was the daughter of a former member of the Imperial Senate who had meddled her way into a key position aboard the governor's command ship. She was known for gossip and to trade in the affairs of the Grand Moff of his family and made sure *she* was the one to greet his brother when he arrived, as there was sure to be information gleaned from it. "Welcome aboard the Star Destroyer Warspite, milord," she said politely, but her voice was dripping with contempt at the privileged playboy whose reputation had preceded him. Her attention then locked onto that of Zara, whose age immediately registered on her knowing womanly eyes ... she might fool a man, but a woman was a different story. "Doctor Tohan? Of course, milord. You'll find him in sickbay, of course," she explained, arching a single eyebrow over her left eye at the teenage temptation.

There was still so much for her to learn about the Rodney family, *her* future family. She had no idea how safe they were on the Imperial Star Destroyer. In her mind, this was enemy territory and the one place where they shouldn't be. Imperial officers were not to be trusted. Despite the fact that Marcus spoke with a pompous, ritzy confidence, Zara waited for the other shoe to drop. She didn't start feeling better about the visit until he made his request for the doctor. Her fingers slowly weaved in between his. She pumped her body up so she could display a little of the same flavor of self-esteem that he did. She had every right to be here. This was all about their baby, after all. She didn't suspect that a weasel stood in their presence. Like Marcus, she believed that anything they found out here was safe. Ooh, how stupid she was.

Marcus was going to have to explain himself on the way home. He was accepted by an Imperial Lieutenant, the very same one who was visually assessing her. Zara was good at making herself up to be an older woman, however, Lieutenant Allegra had caught Zara on a day where she had applied no makeup and put little effort into her appearance. Her age was much more obvious by the youth in her face. If this woman was looking for gossip, she had found a rich vein of it. She did her best to make it look like his appearance wasn't surprising. With brief thanks, they were on their way to the sickbay. Zara's confidence wore off until she looked tired. "You got a lotta 'splainin to do, Mister." She dryly threatened him. "A doctor on an Imperial ship? You know what happened to my family.." She was worried again. She had been so young. It was unlikely that anyone would execute her now. Mainly, she was concerned about the baby.

"I'll explain in due time, my dear. But, for now, smile for the Stromtroopers," Marcus said quietly to Zara between grit teeth and a false smile. He led her hand and hand past the watching Imperials until they reached the end of the hangar where the lift would take them up into the Star Destroyer's massive superstructure. Confident that there were monitoring devices everywhere, he avoided his natural impulse to ravage her in the moments of privacy typically afforded by such close encounters. When the lift finally came to a stop they found themselves in a corridor that was filled with Stormtroopers, officers, and even tiny mouse droids that were scurrying about in every direction in hurried paces. Eventually they arrived at the sickbay which was occupied by numerous Imperials injured in Rebel attacks, medical droids, doctors, and nurses. The facility was state of the art, but unlike the sterile surroundings of the rest of the fleet this sickbay found itself filled with plants maintained with as much care as the patients received by the Ithorian physician. "I promise this is for the best, Zara," he said, as he ushered her past the row of beds towards the office at the far end of the bay.

*Cheese*. Zara grinned. She even made it look pretty. All those monitoring devices were such a shame. Fucking on the Star Destroyer seemed something worthy of her bucket list. She only briefly thought about it when they were crowded close in the lift. You can bet her mind would be elsewhere when she wasn't feeling stressed anymore. As soon as they had their answers, she'd feel a lot better, right? Zara behaved herself, hand in his, and watched the lift move upward until it came to a stop. She mindlessly wondered if they'd have to come here every time she needed to see the doctor. Whoever it was, he was tightlipped enough that it was worth it to enter a Star Destroyer. At the sickbay, doctors, nurses, and medical droids bustled about. She was surprised to see the vivid colors of growing plants inside of the sickbay. No matter what she did, that office came closer and closer. "I believe you." She told Marcus...and she did. He loved her much too much to take her anywhere dangerous. When they reached the office, it was Zara who reached out and knocked on the door. The worry seemed to fade away from her face. A wider, brighter smile broke out over her face. "This is it..." She nuzzled herself closer to his side. "No matter what, you're going to be the best Dad ever." She whispered her sweet words into his ear.

Inside the office lurked the venerable Doctor Pilaq Tohan. When he heard the knock at the door, he rose from his seat with the aid of his walking stick, made of wood salvaged from an Imperial bombardment of the planet many years ago. Now that he was over 70, he found it difficult to move as fast as he could, and thus it took several moments for him to move towards the door. When it opened his large Ithorian form became visible to them, with his dark brown skin and distinct hammerhead. Two large, bulbous eyes looked at them, with orange pupils studying them intently. One, Marcus Rodney, he knew very well, but the other he had never before seen, although her loveliness was immediately apparent. "Lord Marcus," he said, speaking through two mouths that caused his voice to sound as if it were coming from a stereo. He looked at the man he had known for more than two decades very briefly, before turning his attention to the small, young one before him. "Greetings, gentle being," he said, as he extended his hand towards her, his fingers being much longer and more gaunt than a human's hand. "To what do I owe the pleasure of such a beautiful young being visiting an old creature like me?" he asked, sweetly and kindly, in stark contrast to the militaristic Imperial surroundings.

At first glance, Zara didn't know what to think of Doctor Pilaq Tohan. He was an Ithorian, meaning he towered over her five-foot-two frame. It wasn't that he frightened her or gave her any sort of negative feeling, it was that he was new to her. He looked like he'd seen many decades. He even recognized her fiancé right away, though who could forget his face? The environment was different around the Doctor. Zara suddenly didn't feel so on edge. He was nice to them. For the first time since docking, she released Marcus from her deathly grasp and made friendly with the old Ithorian. She started with a charming smile. "Hello, Doctor." Her own hand came to meet his; significantly smaller and daintier, though the calluses at the end of her fingertips said she'd done work in her life. She shook his hand, "My name is Zara Ta'em, I'm Marcus' fiancé." Oooh, did she beam when she said it. She hadn't stopped being happy about finding him. She laughed softly at the doctor's words. "Marcus and I have some..." She paused, "*sensitive* information to speak with you about. Things that the rest of the Rodney family can't know about right now." Her voice dropped for her last sentence. "Can you help us out, please?"

The Ithorian's large, bulbous eyes seemed to widen even more as the girl spoke plainly to him. A murmuring noise began to escape from both of his mouths causing sound waves to radiate from his body and flow through the room. He was well aware of Marcus' philandering ways and it surprised him that he had managed to get through life, carousing as he did, without this happening years, if not decades, ago. Without her saying anything he immediately knew what the matter was about, and said nothing as he moved towards his instruments that were situated on the table. As he produced a small scanning device he shot a disgusted look at Marcus before holding it over her stomach, his eyes slowly rolling down to read the information as it appeared on the screen. "It would appear that your reasons for coming here were justified," he said as the scanner beeped several times, confirming the pregnancy ... and her age. "I suppose it is ... congratulations then?" he said, as he pulled the device away from her stomach, and returned to it to his medical bag. "I understand why you would come here. Your parents would be most displeased with this turn of events," he confirmed with a firm nod of his hammerhead. "I suggest you marry in haste before her ... condition ... becomes obvious to more than a physician. Assuming her birth certificate does not result in your imprisonment," he quickly followed up with, giving a stern lecture that only a man of his advanced age and impeccable moral credentials could give.

Maybe there were some details that Zara should have left out. The old Ithorian wasn't stupid. She knew he'd understand exactly what she was getting at when she spoke to him. While the doctor was shooting him disgusted looks, Zara looked pleased. She moved into the office where it seemed like their secrets would stay hidden. It was amazing how fast everything was done. Zara had never been pregnant before (nor seriously thought it was a possibility before Marcus). The doctor only made her sit through seconds of anticipation while he held the device over her stomach. Her head had begun to beat fast in her chest. The doctor simply confirmed the pregnancy for them. Her mood suddenly escalated further than sky high. A wide smile had taken over her face. There was a baby inside of her! A little, tiny, cute little baby. Her hand was back in Marcus', squeezing it excitedly. "We made a *baby*." She announced in awe. As much as she understood human anatomy, it was still incredible. She wasn't about to let her parade get rained on by discussion of his parents, or the fact that she was only sixteen. "Yes, let's keep this information between us. I've met my future in-laws and I think that announcement will be made behind a screen thousands, and thousands of miles away from them. You can't chastise him too much for this. I was an active participant." She tried to defend Marcus' honor without telling the whole world she lied about her age. Zara continued on, "Is there anything else we can know about the baby right now? How far along am I? Is there anything I can do to make the morning sickness better?"

Marcus was incredulous at the doctor's chastisement, but waited for Zara to speak before defending himself. He took a step forward, coming between Zara and Pilaq, and putting his left hand defensively behind him to guard his wife and unborn child. "She happens to be sixteen, but I only just recently found that out. She looks much, much older," he said, defensively, unaware of how insulting that comment might sound. "And yes, secrecy is of the utmost. My parents were already meddling, and with the succession crisis news of another child might send everything into disarray," he said, knowing the doctor would understand the meaning, but Zara would not.

Doctor Tohan moved towards the dispensary and within moments a small bottle was filled with a number of white capsules. He double checked the computer's automated measurements ... never completely trusting the device ... before moving back towards the couple. "Yes, dear. You made a baby. At least you are old enough to understand the concept of where babies come from," he said, more to Marcus than to Zara, as he handed her the bottle. "These supplements will aid in your prenatal care, but you will need a physician of your own for regular checkups. There are some on Delaya I can recommend, but of course they will alert the Duke and Duchess of the news," he explained, realizing that patient-doctor privilege only went so far in a royal society like Delaya. "You're about three weeks in. There are *options*, but you will find no help with that here," he said, sternly, as he shook his head at the lustful fools that stood before him. "You'll have to get your story straight," he said, slamming the base of his staff against the durasteel deck beneath him.

It wasn't insulting to her. In Zara's line of work, it was advantageous when people didn't think of you as a hormone driven teenager. She needed to continue looking older than sixteen if she wanted to keep her in-laws at bay. She didn't want anything bad to happen to Marcus as a result of her age. She felt embarrassed about not telling him sooner. After telling him, after he received her age like he did, she thought it was silly to have kept it from him in the first place. There she was, placed between her husband and the doctor. For a woman who had fought for herself for so long, she found Marcus chivalrous actions to be touching. Her heart swooned for him. Zara's list of questions for Marcus was starting to get unruly. Maybe she should bring a notepad along for the next adventure? In her mind, throwing off succession hadn't been a possibility. How did that even work? If she had a baby boy, would it really cause so many problems? She looked at Marcus thoughtfully. Hmmm, lots of 'splanin' to do.

She was starting to have mixed feelings for this Doctor Tohan gent! She didn't like the way he treated Marcus, despite the man he used to be. "We knew what we were doing," she tried to explain to the doctor as she took the bottle. "Thank you." Finding a close-lipped physician was going to be another debacle. Maybe if she went to the obgyn by herself then no one would connect whose baby was in her womb. "No thank you, Doctor. I'll find someone to see far, far away from Delaya. I assure you, we won't be aborting the child. I don't know who you think we are, but I can see that you've seriously misjudged." Zara didn't like people talking crap, especially implying that they'd do heinous things to their unborn baby. They had the information they needed. Without another word, Zara turned her back on the doctor and made her way out of his office. How was Marcus not insane? It seemed like there were a lot of negative influences in his life.

Marcus listened to his fiancé address the doctor in a tone of voice and mannerism he had never seen her display. There was a word for how it made him feel ... proud. As she stormed out of the office, he offered a tightlipped smile at the doctor and a nod of his head in appreciation for all he did. He said nothing, knowing the doctor would keep his secret, as he knew the Ithorian had no love for his parents. It was a lot to sink in ... he never thought he would be a father ... he had always been so careful and never kept anyone around long enough for such a thought to ever cross his mind. Now he was about eight months away from holding a living, breathing soul that only weeks ago had been floating around inside of him. In time, it would dawn upon him that his days of being a galactic adventurer were over and that he would be thrust into the more difficult role of father.

Pilaq waited for the young girl to leave the office, before thrusting his staff forward to hold the door closed in front of Marcus before he could escape. "Be mindful, young prince," he said, in a stern and commanding tone as he glared down at him with piercing orange eyes. "It is to be a boy. The future leader of your people. Your father will stop at nothing to ensure your line remains in power and in her womb now lies the key to all of that," he said, nodding his head as he knew, better than anyone, what diabolic lengths the Duke had gone to in order to produce a male heir over the past two decades. "Marry the girl. Make her fit to be the mother of the future Duke. Your father needs the child, he does not need *her*..." he pointed out, honestly, referencing what happened to his brother's late wife, before finally pulling back his staff and allowing the man to leave. Once he was alone, he released a tired sigh that caused a massive sound wave to emanate from both of his mouths, before collapsing back into his seat to reveal patient logs.

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