Rodney could not sleep. Every time the mountain wind
blew in and rattled against the windows he assumed
it was an assassin coming to harm his family. He sat
up in the bed only to discover he was covered in a
thin layer of cold sweat. He looked over at Sierra,
unsure of whether she was asleep or just pretending,
and then quietly he slung his legs over the side of
the side of the bed and rose to his feet. There was
a twinge of pain from the coldness of the centuries
old marble upon the naked soles of his feet. The
castle had such a draft. He moved towards the large
windows, taking a seat on the sill, and looked down
at the city of Leiliani, barely visible through a
thick layer of smog that covered it. He could see
the refugee center his wife had established in
disarray and TIE Strikers soaring overhead ... it
was not the Leiliani that he remembered. The war had
followed him home. He placed his hand upon the glass
and began to draw a picture of what he imaged his
son with Sierra would like, as he had doodled on
these same panes of glass when he was a child. This
was not the condition he wanted to leave the planet
to his son. He would have to take action to save
It had become
increasingly difficult to sleep given the dark
clouds that covered the skies of Delaya. No, we
aren't talking about the massive pollution problem.
Papius Arundel was a devil of many sorts. Seeing him
in the medcenter had enraged Sierra Rodney. It
wasn't just him...it was Gaius Rodney too. She had
forced herself to sit down and watch some of the
footage from his living quarters earlier in the day.
It was all so disturbing listening to them verbally
construct how they were going to kill her and
Claudius. It quickly became overwhelming. Their
words taunted her while she tried to sleep. Beside
her, she could feel her husband tossing and turning.
Was he awake or were the nightmares permeating his
subconscious? She wasn't sure until he sat up and
rose from the bed. At that point, she opened her
eyes into the darkness of their room.
escaped the bed sheets and stood. The marble floor
was so cold! She shivered, clutching her arms to her
chest. Sierra spotted her husband at the window
sill. There, she lowered herself beside him. She
looked at the picture he was drawing with his
finger. She smiled. "I always imagined him with your
hair," Sierra's soft voice broke the otherwise quiet
in their room. Her hand touched his arm then rolled
down it. "What's on your mind, love?" The proper
question, in their case, would be what *wasn't* on
slightly startled by Sierra creeping up on him, and
he quickly moved to conceal his doodle from her, but
she had already seen everything. "Just the foolish
dreams of a foolish old man," he commented, as he
lifted his head and tried to offer her a smile.
"This is not *my* Delaya anymore," he said, as he
looked as yet another flight of TIE Strikers moved
off into the distance. "I think of Jelena and the
things that she said, and then I see this ... and
I-I don't know anymore," he said, as he let out a
deep sigh that threatened to deflate his entire
body. "There is ... there is nothing I can do about
*this*..." he lamented, as his hands curled
instinctively into fists from unbridled frustration.
"...but I am not completely powerless. I still have
the Guard ... or rather Gaius has the guard..." he
said, before leaping up from the sill and rising to
his feet. "I ... I am going to take a shower, but
time does not afford you such luxuries. Get dressed.
Summon Kerrie to the castle ... irregardless of her
physical condition..." he said, as he began to
undress and moved towards the refresher. "...and do
it quietly," he added, sounding like the Duke of
Delaya for the first time since assuming the throne.
softened. The weight that sat upon his shoulders had
become so heavy once more. It was physically
weighing him down. Sierra hated it. She hated seeing
him like this, forced to lay with his stomach up
while Papius did whatever he damn well pleased.
Powerless. She felt a second adrenaline rush just
hearing Gaius' name. It was time to take him out of
the equation. He was plotting and scheming in his
living quarters. It was time to arrest him, his
daughter, and make an example out of them. Her small
body tensed. She was sure she understood why he
wanted Kerrie at the castle. At last, it was time
for the Duke of Delaya to strike back. The worried
expression that had settled over her face did not
leave. "It shall be done," she said quietly. She
disliked the idea of exposing Claudius to Gaius. In
her psychological training, she felt that pushing
the man against a wall may have some serious
negative repercussions. It was with that in mind
that Sierra carefully contacted Kerrie and summoned
her *as soon as possible*.
was in the shower, she dressed in her ISB uniform.
The lengthy tunic made it easy for her to wear a
holster. For the sake of her family, she equipped
herself with two Model Q2 hold-out blaster pistols.
Additionally, she made sure she had several throwing
knives. It wasn't great...but hey! It was something.
She was trained enough that she knew how to use
these weapons properly. To protect Claudius, she
would do *anything*. After she was dressed, she
looked back to the doodle on the window. Bruce had
become the symbol of their future. "I won't let your
father go off the deep end." She told the image,
briefly leaving her room. There was only one
Alderaan guard standing watch outside their rooms.
Sierra leaned against the wall beside Jelena Rodney.
"I need your help." She said quietly.
The only way
Jelena Rodney had of spending time with her family
was wearing this ridiculous uniform that irregularly
fit along with a heavy blast helmet that concealed
most ... if not all ... of her face. When Sierra
said she needed her help a grin formed upon her
face, and she slowly turned to face her childhood
friend with an heir of cockiness about her. "You?
You need my help?" she said, with a laugh, as she
pointed at her own chest. "If it involves helping my
dad out of the bathtub you can forget it. There's
plenty of people around here who can do that," she
said, shaking her head, and waving her hands
dramatically in front of her. Whatever was going on
upstairs she did *not* want to know about it.
Sierra knew there was a reason why she regarded her
so highly. Actually...there were lots of reasons. In
the tension of the situation, Jelena made her friend
laugh hard. "But *Jelena*! I'll never get him out
myself! I need you!" She said playfully. At least
she didn't hate her guts for marrying her father
anymore. Sierra quickly became more serious. "No,
no... I have a feeling that your father is about to
make a move against Gaius Rodney. He had me call
Kerrie to come to the castle. I need you to come as
backup. I don't want him to get himself killed.
Gaius wants that more than anything. Trust me, I've
watched way too much footage of him talking about
it.." She ran her hand through her hair. It seemed
the Duchess was carrying her own weight.
Gaius? What on Delaya for?" Jelena replied, moving
her hand up beneath the blast helmet to scratch at
her head slightly. "Why does Gaius want my father
killed? What are you talking about Sierra? Did you
get into my father's reserve case of Alderaan ruge?"
she asked, as she scrunched her eyebrows and
examined the woman carefully for signs of
intoxication or worse. She was decidedly out of the
loop, having no idea what was going on anymore. The
machinations of her own family were proving to be as
complicated as one of the HoloNet dramas that aired
in the early afternoon.
She shook her
head quickly. "No! I haven't drunk a drop since I
found out I was pregnant. Besides, watching Mother [Livia]
the other day changed my opinion on ever drinking
again..." She wondered what her blood alcohol level
was regularly. Sierra sighed. "It's a long story.
Remember how I told you that there was a bomb at
your funeral and that Julius was murdered? It was
all Gaius. He's been trying to kill his way to the
Duchy. I have undeniable proof. He has some
daughter... It's so sickening, Jelena." Sierra shook
her head. The footage from his living quarters was
*terrible*. "She's in on this killing spree. The
situation is so weird.... Regardless... I need your
could be seen turning in Jelena's head as Sierra
outlined the series of events that had brought them
to this point. Her eyes widened and her mouth hung
awkwardly agape as if she were a fish. The news that
her grandfather had been murdered came as a
sickening blow to her, causing her to cry out
softly, and stagger backwards. She blinked a few
times, staring off into space, as she slowly and
painfully processed the news. "I will help," she
said, with a soft nod of her helmet, causing the
blast helmet to comically fall down over her face.
"I will return to Alderaan Guard headquarters and
help you from the inside," she said, as she adjusted
her helmet and prepared to move out. "Get Kerrie.
She'll know what to do," she said, before scampering
off into the darkened corridors of the castle. She
did not want Sierra to know that it was impossible
to be around Kerrie after what she had done to her.
went out to her best friend. These developments had
not been relayed to her because it was too
dangerous. Feeling desperate, Sierra had acted
rashly. Jelena could help her from the inside.
Before she left, Sierra swept her up in a tight hug.
"I'm sorry, Jelena. Justice will be served for all
the wrong that Gaius has done, I promise you that."
With that, she was gone. Sierra watched her leave
worriedly. There was no way to protect everyone, she
realized. Slowly, she made her way down to the
entrance of castle to receive Kerrie as soon as she
arrived. She glanced towards the castle tower where
Claudius was readying himself. All hell was soon to
As the speeder
moved up the mountainside to Rodney Castle,
Commander Kerrie Kiley sat silently inside. She
remembered back to the time as a little girl when
she was abandoned by her parents and had to ascend a
similar mountain for her training with the Mabari.
For 20 years she held Claudius Rodney responsible
for the dissolution of her family, before failing in
her attempt to assassinate him and ending up in
indentured servitude to him ever since. He had
somehow become the closest thing she had to a father
despite the complex history that they shared, so
when his wife contacted him and said that she was
needed she did not hesitate ... she simply came ...
despite the fact she was violating both Imperial
orders and the recommendation of her doctors. When
the speeder pulled up to the roundabout in front of
Rodney Castle, she leapt out, dressed for duty. She
looked to Sierra, who had replaced her as adjutant,
but she bore her no ill will as she knew it was the
machinations of Arden Zevrin that had led to such a
switch. She nodded her head before bowing in
submission to her. "Milady," she said, with her one
word answer, doing her best to conceal a grimace of
pain as she lowered her body. The wounds inflicted
by Luna Flosgermen still lingered.
High above the
castle El-Nay Darr was flying with the use of her
jetpack, a Clone Wars era relic that was older than
she was. It could short out at any moment and send
her plummeting to her death, but she had to know
what was going on with Kerrie. She had been told to
wait and go and collect Luna and Petrus, but she was
never one for following orders. She had shadowed the
speeder from the city and up the mountain pass, but
she never had any doubt where Kerrie was going. She
still remembered when Kerrie abandoned her and broke
her heart when she left on her suicide mission to
kill Claudius Rodney, and now she had some
unbreakable psychological bond with the man. It was
above her ability to understand. She had just
watched Kerrie put back together and she was not
about to watch her break again, so when she saw
Sierra come into the picture she adjusted the
receiver in her helmet in an attempt to eavesdrop on
their conversation. There was no way this
Mandalorian was being left out.
It was to
Sierra's greatest relief that Kerrie quickly
arrived. The woman was a serious asset to the
family. She appreciated the Clawdite endlessly, for
without her, she could only imagine where they all
would be. Her only regret was having to summon her
so soon after the incident with Luna. "You don't
need to bow, Kerrie..." She said softly. "Thank you
for arriving so quickly. Come on, let's go inside."
Sierra certainly didn't know that the orange-armored
Mandalorian was near. It was surprising to see that
Kerrie had not brought El-Nay. It seemed like they
had a close bond.
silent otherwise. She didn't risk speaking in the
corridors where servants, guards, or any ears of
Gaius could hear. It felt like paranoia to the
highest degree, but they needed the element of
surprise on their side. When they reached the
staircase leading to her and Claudius' private
quarters, she *really* wished it was possible to
install a turbolift. After nearly killing Pilaq, she
hoped Kerrie would be okay. "How are you feeling?"
Sierra asked her quietly. "Were there any other
problems with Governor Papius?" She passed through
the door leading into her room. When Kerrie had
joined her, Sierra used a code to ensure that they
wouldn't be interrupted. She led Kerrie to a sitting
area where they could all talk *privately*. Sierra
sat down on a small love seat. Her head fell into
her hand. "I'm sorry to do this to you, Kerrie. We
need your help," Sierra thought about Jelena. She
was on the first line. She worried that she should
have had Jelena run back home to Esseles to be safe.
slowly and began walking with Sierra through the
foreboding structure that was Rodney Castle. There
was a sudden and jarring flash of light that briefly
illuminated the corridor they walked through,
followed by the crash of thunder. A storm had moved
in, as if on cue, followed by a light rain. It was
the perfect atmosphere for a meeting of this nature.
"I am well, milady," she said, in a lie, but was the
nature of someone who viewed herself as a servant.
"I have had no contact with the Governor. I am due
back in the Ringali Shell," she explained, briefly,
as they moved towards the seating area. "You need
not apologize. Whatever I can do to help I will of
course do," she said, before moving to sit opposite
Sierra. Her mind began to race with the
possibilities of what it was that Sierra and
Claudius were about to ask of her. Whatever it was
it had to be important and it had to be dangerous.
for the small Clawdite. There was no way that she
was at a hundred percent yet. She was glad that
Papius hadn't been there to spout his alien hate.
Sierra didn't even know where to start. She slunk
back in the plush cushions. "It's Gaius Rodney." She
started. "We need help arresting him and his
daughter. They are guilty of assassinating Duke
Julius and attempting to kill both Claudius and
myself on multiple occasions." She recalled Bruce
Tamir, the guard who had sacrificed himself for her:
for her baby. "There's no way to know how far the
corruption goes. We suspect the whole Alderaan Guard
is tainted. In order to capture Gaius, we're going
to have to go through them. I can't guarantee that
will be a peaceful affair but it's something that
has to be taken care of. We haven't been safe within
the walls of the castle in months."
would have happened if I had been permitted to
continue in my capacity as bodyguard," Kerrie
commented bitterly, and much more bluntly than she
was used to speaking. Her gloved hand curled into a
fist and slammed onto the arm of the sofa she was
sitting on. She let out a dejected sigh, before
shaking her head repeatedly. "Milady ... I cannot
take on the entire Alderaan Guard by myself," she
said, before lowering her head in contemplation. "I
suppose I can order the Storm commandos to assist
us," she said, knowing full well the problem this
would cause with both the Inquisitor and Arden
Zevrin. She did not care about herself nearly as she
cared about the safety and wellbeing of those she
had sworn to protect.
place to be in a lightning storm was 100 feet in the
air. El-Nay's old jetpack was struggling to
compensate for the spirited gusts of winds that were
coming down off the mountains. She had no longer
been able to focus her receiver to accurately
eavesdrop on the conversation either, which was
adding to her frustration. She screamed briefly
underneath her helmet as she attempted to control
her flight long enough to at least hear *something*.
And that is when another blast of lightning came in,
drawn to her Mandalorian armor. The lightning
connected with her, giving her a tremendous shock,
and shorting out of her jetpack. She began falling
uncontrollably towards the castle, crashing through
the window, and landing awkwardly on the table that
separated Sierra from Kerrie. "Uh. Sorry," she said,
weakly, between groans, as she attempted to look up
at them. But the pain was too much, and after doing
no more than a pushup, she collapsed back down onto
the remnants of table beneath her.
"I don't doubt
that." It was Arden Zevrin who had stripped Kerrie
from her position. She was grateful that the
Clawdite didn't hold that against her. As soon as
possible, Sierra wanted to restore Kerrie to her
previous position. What happened simply wasn't fair.
It was obvious that a single person, or that only a
couple of people, could take the Alderaan Guard out.
Her eyebrows furrowed while she considered the
options, quickly shaking her head at Kerrie's first
suggestion. "As good of an idea as it is, it'll get
us all in a heaping load of trouble." She was still
considering her words when, quite suddenly,
something dropped through the window and crashed
into the table between her and Kerrie. Sierra was on
her feet, hand darting beneath her tunic within a
second. For once, El-Nay's choice of armor proved to
be useful. Sierra's mind registered the color before
she ripped the helmet from El-Nay's head and killed
her. "El-Nay!" She gasped. Stupid, stupid girl!
knees to bend, Sierra sat back down on the couch.
She leaned over, touching El-Nay on the shoulder.
"You should have just knocked.." Now El-Nay was
injured too. "Damn it, look at you. Stay put."
Sierra rose again. This time, she disappeared into
the bathroom. She had learned from Claudius being
prone to injury, that keeping an extensive first-aid
kit on hand was necessary. From beneath the sink,
she pulled a box that clinked as she stood upright.
"Our guests are here, my love." She called to him.
She returned back to the sitting area. The Duchess
sat on her knees beside El-Nay. First, she
administered a drug for the pain, then she began
looking over the girl. She looked at Kerrie. "Papius
mentioned something about Luna and Petrus being
involved in some special project with you. As much
as I hate to say this...how about them? Can they
help?" She hated the idea of being face-to-face with
them again. She'd like nothing more than to make
them suffer for hurting her, kidnapping Dru, and
putting so much more stress on Claudius.
It was at that
moment that another unexpected visitor made her
appearance: Zara Rodney. Her face was red and she
was out of breath. The hellish spire stars had
nearly killed her, Pilaq, and Kerrie. She looked
panicked and held a single datapad in her hand.
"Sierra!" She gasped. Zara had committed crime
against the love of her life tonight. Not only had
she stolen his ship, she had purposely drugged him
before he fell asleep. Zara had made up her mind:
she was going to kill Luna Ta'em and her husband.
She armed herself with a combination of both of
their weapons. She even took Marcus' droids with
her. All three of them hovered close to her as if
they were taking over his position as her protector.
As terrible as she felt, she knew he'd understand
why she decided to take care of her sister
*herself*. Marcus would always feel guilt about
killing her sister. He'd be waiting for the day when
Zara decided she hated him for doing the deed.
hacked into the Imperial garrison to get additional
information on Luna and Petrus' whereabouts. Sierra
had given them information, not eyes. It was then
that she discovered something terrible: an arrest
warrant for her sister-in-law. She intercepted the
message and did what she could to delay it from
happening while she zoomed towards the Rodney
Castle. Now she was there, no longer caring that her
'secret' identity had been exposed. She walked
towards the Duchess. "Look." She huffed, showing her
the datapad with her arrest warrant on it. "It says
Papius has proof that you're aiding the Rebels. I
did what I could to delay your arrest. They are
*going* to come for you." Having overheard Sierra
speaking as she entered the room, Zara recalled the
real reason behind leaving her home late in the
night. "I know where Petrus and Luna are. I can go
get them to help you guys. It sounds like you'll
need it." She had to kill them.
of light briefly illuminated the room followed by a
sudden crash of thunder that indicated the storm was
much closer ... perhaps directly over the castle
now. Into the light stepped Claudius Rodney who was
dressed in the formal attire of Duke of Delaya
rather than his Imperial Grand Moff's uniform. "Then
we haven't much time," he said, in response to
Zara's startling news, as he moved to take control
of the situation. "Commander Kiley, it has come to
our attention that Gaius Rodney and his 'child' are
responsible for the death of His Majesty's advisor,"
he said, grimly, as he attempted to feign sympathy
for the repulsive man. "I regret to inform you that
as a peaceful planet Delaya does not have the means
to deal with this matter itself," he continued, as
he had spent considerable time formulating the
legality of his actions within the shower. "I
therefore request Imperial intervention to arrest
the criminals," he said, doing his best not to smile
... quite proud of himself for the way he had laid
everything out. With Gaius Rodney and his daughter
in Imperial custody his family would be safe and the
Alderaan Guard would be loyal to him. Then ... then
he could deal with Governor Papius Arundel.