Era of Rebellion - Navigation

Alice Bee and Christopher Levy.
One year after the Battle of Yavin (36:3:20) in the Alderaan system: Delaya (Leiliani: Rodney Castle).
Commander Kerrie Kiley, Grand Moff Claudius Rodney, and Commander Sierra Rodney.

The day had finally come. The coronation of Claudius and Sierra Rodney as the next Duke and Duchess of Delaya. The entirety of the House of Rodney along with most of Delaya's influential society had turned out for the momentous event, which made for quite the security nightmare. Down the mountains there were considerable protests about an Imperial Grand Moff becoming Duke, but they were not as numerous as the Alderaan Guard had already feared. Claudius had made a compromise by not wearing his Imperial uniform, but instead chose to wear robes reminiscent of what his father wore. He found himself seated on the throne for the first time and he did not feel comfortable, but every Rodney had sat upon it for the past eight centuries. Beside him a smaller, less ornate throne was placed there for Sierra. There was still a large amount of male dominance in the ceremony, which had largely been unchanged for the past millennia. As he sat there waiting for the crown to be placed upon his head he looked out in the crowd to acknowledge Drusilla, Marcus, Zara, and Ewwiekewwieikkie ... who had been dumped on Zara. Jelena was not permitted to attend, as she was still legally declared dead, but she was actually pleased about not having to attend. The large amount of non-humans present was keenly noted by the Emperor's representative, a ghastly older man who wanted to leave as soon as he arrived. The ceremony, thankfully, did not last long.

There had been no way to stop this day from coming. Sierra Rodney had not slept the night before. All she could think about was that *weight* that was officially upon them. She also couldn't stop imagining the five thousand different ways the ceremony could go wrong, from belching as they crowned her husband the Duke of Delaya, to her skirt ripping, all the way to something happening to the family. What if Zara gave birth!? Needless to say, Sierra had considered everything. She entertained even the more irrational thoughts in her head.

In the days leading up to the coronation, she had attempted to sway to public towards their side. She attended unpleasant interviews, reluctantly giving up her story as a Alderaan refugee to humanize herself. She spoke highly of her husband and his achievements, but, in the deep darkness of the night before the coronation, she wondered if she had done enough.

The morning had passed by in a hectic blur. She could recall people tugging at her hair and throwing her into an exquisite dress unlike anything she had ever worn before. Sierra was numb to it, her mind driven by the thought of surviving today to continue living tomorrow. All the training she had ever gone through to be this grand, fancy noble woman was not enough to prepare her for how it felt to sit on the smaller throne beside her husband. She felt like Goldilocks, only this chair wasn't just right. It was uncomfortable and foreign, just like the large crowd before them. Sierra did her damndest to keep her head up and a polite smile on her face. Internally, that little voice inside of her head was screaming. Self doubt had reared its head. What *she* ready for this? Her twentieth birthday had yet to arrive and she was about to be crowned the Duchess of Delaya. With the discomfort growing, her hand crept over to Claudius'. Figuring they both needed each other right now, she squeezed his hand.

The hand squeeze was the universal signal for being uncomfortable, so when Claudius felt her grasp he turned his head and offered her a small smile. It was the most he could do without disrupting the ceremony. There were speeches being made by the various members of the council that drew on a bit longer than were necessary. It was an attempt to calm a population filled with uncertainty due to the difficult transition. Eventually the time came for the coronation itself and the oldest minister stepped forward with a crown for Claudius and a tiara for Sierra. They were being held on small violet pillows that were getting better treatment than any of the people in the ceremony. Even Claudius did not have a cushion so plush as the one the crown was placed upon. The minister placed the tiara on Sierra's head, slightly adjusting it until it was perfect. Then the crown was lifted, held out in front to be shown to all on display. At long last it was placed upon Claudius' head, where it would remain only for a short time before being placed back in the vault. With that simple action Claudius Rodney and Sierra Rodney had become Duke and Duchess of Delaya. There was mild applause from the crowd followed by the playing of classical Alderaanian music.

She, too, smiled at him. Her mind took her back to a place of relaxation: the sea islands. It only became a problem when it took her too far into that happy place and she began to think of acts that left sand in weird places. Sierra made a serious effort to look interested in the speeches. She understood the necessity for them. She also understood that she wanted this to be over quickly. Sierra was a rip the bandaid off kind of person. Finally, Claudius' crown and her tiara made an appearance. In them, she saw their future. She did not question if this was the right decision. In her heart, she felt that they would do what was best for the planet; like they actually *cared*. The people of Delaya needed to matter again.

In silence, the tiara was rested on her head in a bed of her soft, blonde hair. As small was it was, it seemed to weigh a ton. Through misty blue eyes, she watched the love of her life become the Duke of Delaya. Her opinion on this should never change. Claudius *deserved* this. He was cut out to lead his people. She forced a more full smile to the crowd as music began to play. Sierra's hand squeezed his one last time, only this one was a 'go get 'em, tiger' kind of squeeze. She sat back, staring over the crowd in worry that something bad might happen. So far, Kerrie's investigation had not given them any results. With the girls in the audience and her and Claudius seated in their thrones with a target on their chests, how could she protect everyone?

Claudius rose from the throne to walk towards the podium where he would give his first public comments as Duke of Delaya. He looked out into the crowd and to the HoloNet recorders beyond that would broadcast his remarks throughout the known galaxy. It was more than a little intimidating. "People of Delaya," he began, clearing his throat, as he searched for the remarks that would best carry him through this. "We begin a new era as a planet free from the shadow of Alderaan. No longer are we a second class people left to produce the industry of a world that outsourced their pollution to our planet. To survive on our own we must free ourselves of the toxic industry that is polluting our cities, and return to our agrarian roots to ensure all have food," he began, outlining a complicated domestic policy that hoped to undo some of the toxic changes his ancestors had made to benefit themselves financially, but nearly ruined the planet. The less industrial approach would hurt many financially, but on a whole the planet would gradually improve and the food crisis would be abated. The mood in the castle was grim, but the general population watching in the city applauded. Class warfare had begun.

Sierra watched him like a hawk. It seemed she was convinced that something would happen while he delivered his first speech as the Duke. Life in Delaya had to change. The people were going to kill the planet if things continued to go as they were now. Every portion of the family would look like Zara and Marcus' tundra. It was time to take proper care of the future and begin to lift the smog that covered the city. She listened to each of his strong words, backing her husband one-hundred percent. She was happy to see him usher in an era of change. They could make a difference in the planet's future. For that, she was grateful to be Duchess.

The ceremony concluded after another unnecessarily lengthy speech from a member of the council. Eventually, they were escorted to the reception hall where Sierra found herself capable of breathing again. Her tiara had already been taken back for the sake of being place in the family's safe. Without it, being Duchess didn't feel so different from being Sierra.

There was so much food at the reception. She was happy to see Auntie Mae herself lingering near three table's worth of her ice cream. Zara and Ewwiekewwieikkie had crowded beside that table to bond over their love for sweets. It looked like Drusilla was being accosted by a group of fashionistas sporting *nearly* as many accessories as she was. Everything was going so *well*. Sierra had been swept up in conversation with one of the council members. As soon as she was free, she gathered a plate full of Claudius' favorite cookies and returned to his side wearing a smile that seemed more natural than any other one she had worn today. "I got you something..."

Claudius spent what felt like hours on the receiving line, welcoming each and every guest that came to the coronation. There were people had known since he was a child, and people whom he had never met, but the one thing they all had in common was that they wanted something. Being Duke of Delaya meant doings lots and lots and lots of favors it seemed, as well as involving himself in petty personal matters he had zero interest in. The delivery of the cookies from Sierra was a much needed blessing. He took her by the arm and led her away from the crowd and onto a balcony where they could, at least for a short while be alone. He quickly made short work of the cookies as he leaned over the railing to look down at the city of Leiliani where the true Delayans were. His planet was not represented by the old men, nobles, and rich elites that had crowded his castle this day. Before he could say anything the one guest he had been avoiding made his way out onto the balcony ... the Emperor's personal representative. He gave Sierra's hand a polite squeeze, as he forced a smile on his face to begin the repugnant manner of politics the situation had called for. But, before he even get a word in edgewise there was another attack. In the aftermath he felt himself wet, fearing he was injured, but to his great alarm it was the Emperor's advisor that had been the victim.

It was nice to get away from the stuffy environment. Though born into nobility, Sierra had never really been like the rest of them. She swam away from the crowd, so to speak. "How are you doing, my love?" The young Duchess rounded him so she could stand behind Claudius. She began to gently rub his back to soothe whatever tension had formed. The hard day was not going to get any easier. She looked forward to returning to the privacy of their chambers. Today was a day for a bath, she thought. No sooner had she begun her massage did she realize they weren't alone. Damn it, she thought. She forced the smile back on her face.

Out of the blue, something *insane* happened. Someone shot the Emperor's representative. The shot was expert level, entering in the middle of the man's head and blowing a hole outside of it. Visually, it was impossible to process. There was blood spatter all over the balcony. It was on Claudius. It was on Sierra. She grabbed her husband's hand suddenly and forced him to the ground so they were shielded by the thick material of the balcony's side. "Shit." They needed to deal with this without causing widespread panic at the reception. Carefulness had kept the press and the people of Delaya away from the current House Rodney problem. She adjusted the corset of her dress before revealing to him that she was packing heat, be it a tiny, disguisable gun, it was something. She couldn't count on Gaius alone to protect them. Her fingers touched with a brooch on her dress: a comlink in disguise. "Kerrie, there's a problem on the eastern balcony. Can you get to me?" One of her hand was still gripping Claudius. She registered that the blood on his robes was not his, but it did scare her. She wasn't going to let anyone hurt him.

Kerrie Kiley had been going through the ordeal of serving appetizers to the many guests that attended the reception in her quest to find the assassin of Julius Rodney. When she got the message from Sierra, she discarded her tray of local delicacies and proceeded at her best speed towards the eastern balcony. "Oh my," she said, as she dropped to her knees to check on the Imperial advisor, who was quite dead. "What happened?" she asked, as she checked the man to examine the extent of his injuries. Clearly there was a sniper in the surrounding area, and the need for increased protection was clear to her. "This cannot be allowed to continue, Milady," she said to Sierra, as she rose back to her feet and glared at the young noblewoman. "You and the Governor must go to ground," she demanded, as she moved her hand over a control panel to send off patrol bands to scour the mountain range for signs of the assassin. She figured it would be too late to find anything, but she would try. She also knew what the death of an Imperial Advisor would mean for Delaya, but she was not one to get into politics. (d)

Sierra hated moving around Kerrie like she was a pawn. She needed that woman now, for she was the only one who was truly trustworthy outside of their little family. The beating of her heart muted her ears while she awaited Kerrie to arrive. Thankfully, she had positioned herself close enough that she was there in the span of minutes. She hadn't even begun to think about what the death of the advisor would mean to them. First she needed to secure what was hers. Everything else came after that. She looked at the Clawdite while she checked on the advisor. "It's more of the same, I'm sure. One of us was the intended target." She was getting increasingly more tired with someone messing around with their family. She wanted revenge. She wanted to scout the mountains for her enemy. "Thank you, Kerrie. Please see to it that our guests do not figure out what has happened." The depth of what Sierra owed Kerrie was growing. She looked tired whilst trying to continue standing strong. She concealed her weapon once more, grabbed her husband's hand, and left the balcony by a route that would enable them to not go back into the reception. Their clothing was bloody. Someone was bound to notice that. Sierra took him downstairs and into a room that had not been occupied for some time. The windows faced away from the mountains. Sierra was careful not to prowl close to them. Her hands met with her cheeks. She realized she had been crying, though it was out of frustration and anger. "Why is someone doing this to us?" She posed to the world.

"This is a disaster," Claudius said as he stood there, trembling, covered in the advisor's blood. "The Emperor will be most displeased. He will blame the Rebellion and send troops here to pacify the system," he said in a panic, as he moved to take a seat. "I would rather I had been the one shot," he said, as he ran his blood stained hands upon his trousers. "It will be out of my hands now. I have no influence over Imperial forces in this region," he informed her, as he looked over her helplessly. His mind had already gone to the worst possible outcome, which was natural given how much had gone wrong for them over the past several months. "I do not know why, Sierra, but we must find out..." he informed her, before his eyes lowered down to the fallen body of the advisor. The people in the city below would pay for this, and there was nothing he could do about it.

There was so much blood on him; his clothing, his hands, even his face. It reminded her of the guard who had saved her life, Bruce. Their family's problems were getting too out of control. Unless they found the culprit, this was only going to continue. Claudius shed light on just how bad the situation was. Sierra winced, imagining Stormtroopers and ISB agents pouring into their planet. The suffering would be endless. "No..." She groaned. "We cannot let that happen." The scent of blood hung so thickly in the room. The body of the advisor was there as an unpleasant reminder of what had just happened. Sierra grabbed a sheet from the untouched bed and laid it over the corpse of the advisor. She then moved into the bathroom, one much smaller than their own, to retrieve a wet wash cloth. When she returned, she began to gently remove Claudius' bloody robes and wash his hands of the blood. "We will go to the Emperor and beg for forgiveness. We need to catch the culprit. We have to show His Majesty how apologetic we are that this happened." She knelt down in front of him. The white cloth turned blood red as she tried to clean him. There was too much. It was a mess so great that even she couldn't clean it up. She looked up towards him. As much as she tried to internalize it, she was scared too. Suddenly, Sierra wrapped her arms around him and embraced him tightly. She pressed her face into his trousers so he couldn't see her tears. Again, someone had nearly taken Claudius away. "I have to go aid in the search." She said, her voice muffled. "I have to set this right."

"The Emperor is not forgiving," Claudius told her, his voice trembling with fear, as she went through the process of washing him off. "I do not want you and our child out on the hunt. Leave it to Kerrie and her people. If she can't catch them they can't be caught," he said to her, as he considered what course of action was best for them. "I will apologize personally to His Majesty," he said, before rising from his seat and moving indoors so he could begin to disrobe. "Have these garments burned," he told her, as he slowly rid himself of the bloody clothing. "Join me in the refresher when you are able," he said to her, as if he were still in shock. He moved slowly, yet deliberately, into the refresher. He quickly turned the shower on to its near maximum setting before stepping into it to cleanse his body and sooth his soul. As the warm water beat down upon him it washed the blood from his flesh, which pooled at the bottom of the shower before circling the drain. Below party guests and revellers continued to be entertained, celebrating, unaware of the advisor's death or Claudius and Sierra's absence.

She could hear his fear and wanted to soothe it. What could she do to make this better? Short of turning back the clock... nothing. Sierra considered disobeying her husband and joining the hunt. If it weren't for their growing son, she probably would have. Instead, she took a moment to collect herself. She had to stop panicking because Claudius *needed* her. The young woman moved inside and stripped herself of every shred of clothing that she wore. She piled it with Claudius', knowing they would both need to be disposed of. Soon, the shower door opened up and she stepped in. Steam had already built up. Her eyes adjusted to it until she could clearly see her husband, appearing with a lot less blood on him. "Claudius," his name dropped sweetly from her mouth. She used her hands to persuade him to face her. When he did, both of her arms wrapped around his waist. She held him tightly to her body like she was trying to suck away his fear. "We will do it together, just as we do *everything* together." Her pregnancy created a perfect excuse should the guests notice they were gone. Her fingers pushed through his hair. She made sure every bit of blood was gone. "I love you," she whispered to him.

When Sierra first called his name he did not move, until she finally forced him around so that they were face to face once again. "I love you too," he told her, before wrapping his arms around her and drawing her near his naked body. "The last time we were in a shower like this I nearly died," he said, referencing their tryst at the Emperor's retreat. His mouth descended upon hers fiercely as he put all of the perils they were facing out of his mind for the short term. His hands roamed over her body, groping at her like it was the first time. It was, after all, their first time as Duke and Duchess. "What about our guests?" he asked her, playfully, as the kiss broke and he pulled his head away to look over her entire body. She was as beautiful as the first time he saw her.

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