Era of Rebellion - Navigation

Alice Bee and Christopher Levy.
One year after the Battle of Yavin (36:6:29) in the Mustafar system: Kwai and Mustafar (Darth Vader's castle).
Grand Moff Claudius Rodney, Major Sierra Rodney, Snoke, Inquisitor Jessa Thrope, Darth Vader, and Vaneé.

The shuttle Kwai gradually descended over the vast lava flows that dominated the terrain of Mustafar. It was this horrid world that Grand Moff Claudius Rodney had found himself summoned to by the Emperor's Executor, Lord Vader. In the distance the looming sight of Vader's castle came into view, which the shuttle slowly and carefully landed to at the designated landing pad. He turned his head, looking towards Sierra, before reaching over and giving her a reassuring squeeze. "I don't want to be late," he informed her, as he rose from his seat, but not before leaning over to place a kiss upon her. As he moved towards the rear compartment of the Kwai he looked into the bassinet where Bruce lay, and smiled down at his son, before giving him a kiss. "Remember. Your father loves you, and everything I do, I do for you..." he told her, before moving on from him, and walking down the ramp into the castle's landing platform. It was hot ... hotter than anything he could have ever possibly imagined. It was like descending into one of the hells of Corellia. He started to sweat almost immediately and he came to realize why Vader had chose this setting for his meetings, unaware of the Dark Lord's past here. He gave Sierra a moment to catch up before ascending the steps into the castle where he spied the same attendant who summoned him. "I am reporting as commanded," he said, dutifully and professionally to the wretched old man.

Major Sierra Rodney would have welcomed the sight of Onderon compared to the one that lay before her now. Her hands were shaking on the controls of the Kwai, so much that she wasn't sure how she didn't plummet the ship into the lava below. Her heart had to power down with the ship's engines. Would Claudius die at the hands of Lord Vader? She had to believe that he would survive to live another day. She didn't rise from her seat until after they shared another loving kiss. She felt uncomfortable when he pulled back...was that their last kiss? Sierra rose. She made her way to the rear compartment of the ship where Bruce and Claudius were sharing a moment. She stopped, watching them interact. It made her cry. Inside the bassinet, Bruce didn't understand what was happening. He smiled brightly at his father and kicked his feet, just to show Claudius that he would *never* be properly bundled.

Sierra quickly gathered up Bruce. She chose to hold him instead of allowing him to lay in the baby sling. The young woman took a deep breath then stepped forward onto the ramp. She was as ready as she would ever be. The heat was overwhelming. She could feel beads of sweat moving down her back underneath her uniform. She stepped up beside Claudius with a gloomy look on her face. They had arrived.

Vaneé emerged from the shadows of the antechamber that would eventually lead to Darth Vader. From beneath the hood of his cloak he focused on Grand Moff Rodney before his attention shifted briefly on Sierra before returning to the Governor. "Only you were summoned, Governor," he said to him, as he moved his hand to dismiss the ISB Major. He knew that Lord Vader was not one to include a plus one on his invitations. He looked past Claudius towards the vacant space behind him and grew slightly concerned. "Before you meet with Lord Vader one other must arrive," he informed him, cryptically, before he backed away. If the other did not arrive soon she would be late, and Vader was one to blame all concerned for even the slightest inconvenience.

The very same man who had summoned her husband now stood in front of them. He had insulted Claudius during his summons, and now he was trying to stop Sierra from following her husband to the end...oh no. The Major narrowed her eyes. She took a step closer to him. "I'm *not* leaving." Sierra insisted. "I am the Governor's wife *and* his adjutant. I will not let him stand before Lord Vader alone." Sierra was ready to take all of her worries out on Vaneé, no matter how stupid that might be. She was passionate. The young force-sensitive child in her arms stared at the pungent little man. Sierra didn't understand what the man was talking about. Who else could be summoned to the meeting? The answer was soon to come, in fact, the answer was landing less than thirty feet away.

The Revelation slowly descended down into Mustafar. Jessa Thrope had been in high spirits since receiving her summons. She spoke highly of her master and her accomplishments on the surface of Chandrila. She proclaimed to Prav that everything was about to turn around for her. "I'm going to be rewarded!" Jessa grinned. It was while they were docking that her face shrunk. She noticed the shuttle belonging to the Grand Moff. "Rodney! What's *he* doing here!? Bring the ramp down quickly, Prav!" The Lepi demanded angrily. She turned her back on her manservant and made her way down the ramp. She felt the Governor's son long before she saw him. There seemed to be a family pow wow going on. In her mind, Claudius had only been summoned to die. *She* would be rewarded. The Lepi came to stand in front of Vaneé. She gave the Governor and his wife none of her attention. "Lord Vader has summoned me. Allow me to see him!"

The temperature seemed to grow even hotter as Sierra confronted Vaneé, which caused Claudius no end of concern. But before he could interject himself the other that was spoken about arrived ... Inquisitor Thrope. He raised his hand, about to speak, but before he could utter a word a large door opened revealing a platform that looked out onto the lavaflow. He froze, unable to speak, as he knew their time had come. Instead, he lowered his hand to adjust his tunic to its most professional state. His eyes slowly moved over towards Sierra, giving her a nod of encouragement, but he would speak no more. He knew that much at least.

Vaneé backed away in the shadows as the door opened, but not before flashing a glance at both Sierra and Jessa. "You may enter, but be careful what you wish for," he reported, before creeping away like the creature that he was. He knew what was in store for them even if they did not, and he wished to be nowhere near the scene when Lord Vader unleashed his temper. His curiosity was not worth his life.

Claudius reached out for Sierra's hand and gently squeezed it, before moving forward with military precious onto the platform. It was insufferably hot as he walked out onto it, his brown eyes immediately looking towards the horizon where mountains and eruptions of lava were visible. It was almost beautiful and quite the appropriate theatrical setting for what the Dark Lord of the Sith had in mind. For all he knew this might be the last horizon he would look out upon, and chose to soak it in. As for Vader ... he was nowhere to be scene.

Inquisitor Thrope was there. In all their running and attempting to hide from her, she had found them. Sierra's fear quadrupled, not extending over her whole family. The last time she had crossed paths with Inquisitor Thrope, it had been with Claudius in between them trying desperately to keep their son safe. Pilaq had been exhausted. El-Nay had been injured badly ... but now they would have more than just the Lepi to deal with. Vaneé allowed for her to enter. Sierra prayed that her appearance wouldn't sign her husband's death warrant. The doors were open before them, yet she didn't move. She *couldn't*. Her knees had infused themselves together. The room before her could be the end for her husband...

His squeeze provided her with additional strength. She was amazed that he continued to hold himself together. He faced Lord Vader gracefully. She squeezed his hand back and, together, they moved forward onto the platform. The heat was consuming. It was so hot that it seemed like if they were wrapped up in it too long their flesh might melt off. There was no sign of anyone other than the Lepi. Sierra had a moment to compose herself and offer Claudius her support, not the other way around. Time was ticking down too slowly.

Jessa had no worries in her mind. She made her way onto the platform like she belonged there, *and* owned it. A smile spread across her face. It was easy to forget how violent and vicious the young Sith was for her species was not known for being frightening. She did not sense Lord Vader, so she decided to terrorize the Governor and his wife. She circled around Claudius like a predator. "Well look what we have here. Governor Rodney. It's been *too* long. I'm so glad you brought your son to me. Less work for me, you know? His Majesty will be happy when I pry him from your dead hands and present the boy to him. I always wondered how he killed the children. Do you think it's fast or *painfully* slow?"

The door at the other end of the platform opened suddenly, and a towering shadow was cast down upon the trio. Suddenly Darth Vader appeared, moving with deliberate speed, though certainly not running. He spoke no words but the labored sound of his breathing filled the air, preceding his arrival. From beneath the lenses of his helmet he gazed upon the Grand Moff and the Inquisitor, along with the uninvited woman. "Even now you argue," he said, as he looked to each of them with unspeakable rage. "An Imperial force defeated. A Governor assassinated..." he said, recounting the multiple events that had led to this. "You were tasked with punishing the Chandrilans and destroying the Rebellion ... not giving them hope..." he said, as he raised his hand and began to manipulate the air around both Claudius and Jessa's throat. "Since you cannot control what you say to one another, I will silence you!" he informed them, before closing his fist and beginning the process of choking them.

There was so much Claudius wanted to say and *do* to Jessa, but before he had a chance to speak Lord Vader had arrived. Obediently he lowered his head to him, but nothing would prepare him for what happened next. As he listened to Vader indict him there was nothing he could say to any of the charges. As he was choked by the invisible force that Vader wielded he brought his hands up to his neck but it was too no avail. He fell to his knees in front of the dark lord, continuing to clutch at his throat and grasp for air. He had rumors about such a punishment, but had never witnessed it first hand. Now he was experiencing it himself. Now he himself would become a rumor whispered about in secret among senior Imperial officers.

It was significantly different meeting Lord Vader than the Emperor. A coldness surrounded the Emperor, while the heat here dared to kill. The sound of his breathing filled Sierra's ears. She'd heard rumors but they were so elaborate that she felt people were lying. Before her, she witnessed the truth. Each word Lord Vader spoke was painful and true. Chandrila had been a total loss. There was *nothing* to take pride from. The punishment began as soon as he raised his hand. It quickly became clear what was happening. Sierra had tunnel vision for her husband. She was forced to watch him fall to his knees while invisible hands choked the life out of him. Tears hotter than the lava began to stream down Sierra's cheeks. She clutched Bruce to her chest and shielded his eyes from the vision of his father slowly being killed. The little boy, who would one day become very powerful, began to cry as if yelling for Lord Vader to stop. Sierra was obliged to stay where she stood. She'd promised Claudius... She *promised* him...

Jessa came to a stop behind the Governor. She was pleased to see her master until his rage rained down on her. "If he would have just done as I..." Jessa began, only to have her words stopped. Her windpipe seemed to collapse upon itself. "L-L-Lord V-Vader..." She thought she was excelling in her new orders. She coughed. She resisted falling to the ground for as long as she could. Jessa attempted to lift a paw to summon Prav to come save her but she couldn't. She was on the ground, groaning. "L-L-L-L-" She couldn't managed to sputter the name of her master. If he didn't release her soon, she would die.

Vader was just about to execute the two failures when he heard the sound of the child crying. With a thrust of his palm he unleashed a wave of telekinetic energy that would send both the Grand Moff and the Inquisitor flying across the platform. His attention was now focused solely on Sierra, or rather the child she was holding. He walked towards her across the platform until he was towering over her. He reached out with his hand, keeping it above the child's head as the slow sound of mechanical breathing threatened to rupture Sierra's ears. He understood now what his master had intended, but he did not appreciate it. He released his hand and moved towards Inquisitor Thrope. "You disrupted the Emperor's plans to destroy the Rebel fleet at Chandrila over this ... *child*?" he asked her, but he already knew the answer. No more words were spoken, only the menacing breathing filled the air.

Sierra's body had begun to shake. Her knees knocked together. She couldn't watch Claudius die like this. Time was rapidly running out for both her husband *and* the Inquisitor. The tears came rushing harder. There was *nothing* she could do. Interrupting the execution would only prolong it and make it worse. "Claudius..." She cried underneath her breath. Her deafened ears seemed to notice her son's crying at that point. She cradled the boy in her arms. "Shhh... Shh..." Her lips pressed to his forehead. Bruce was furious. He didn't stop crying until after Lord Vader had released his hold on his father and sent the poor man across the platform like he was a plaything. Sierra was still forced to watch each moment of his sufferings with no way of stopping it. "Claudius!" She called out, readying to run to him. When she tore her eyes away from the man, she realized that Lord Vader's vision was centered on *her* now. Her hands brought her son closer.

The heat was beginning to make her feel woozy. The breathing was louder...louder than a TIE Striker screaming beside her. She stood before Darth Vader, so small and insignificant. He could kill her with minimal effort. He could take Bruce. Dead or alive, Sierra wouldn't allow it. She found her spine. "Inquisitor Thrope came to us before the battle of Chandrila. She forced this child from my womb. She provided the Governor with a mountain of unnecessary stress and distractions, as I gave birth much earlier than anticipated." She told him. "It is Thrope who caused my husband to lose. It was impossible for him to fully concentrate on the battle after what happened." Her lower lip quivered. She was actively crying before Darth Vader but she didn't beg. She told him like it was.

Inquisitor Thrope had been thrown all the way to the edge of the platform. She lay on the ground gasping for breath. Her paws touched over her throat to ensure the torture was over. The Lepi scrambled to her feet rapidly. "No! No!" She yelled to Sierra's claims. "His Majesty wants the boy for his own use. I only helped the process along!" The Lepi clearly had yet to learn her lesson. She couldn't even breathe properly from being choked out, and she was already working her way towards another punishment.

Claudius was sprawled out on the platform gasping for air after his brush with the dark lord. He wanted to rise up and rush to Sierra and Bruce, but thus far all he could manage was slowly sitting up. He moved his hand to his collar to loosen it, as every drop of air was now precious. He looked across to Vader as he confronted Inquisitor Thrope as he wondered if now any of them would get out of here alive. He looked to Sierra as he pleaded his case, but he knew that neither His Majesty nor Vader would respond to such a plea. Neither of them knew forgiveness or mercy.

Vader did not focus on the words Sierra was pleading with, but instead kept himself focused on his Inquisitor. For the Emperor to have gone behind his back to order the child captured it told him that this baby would not simply be eradicated, but rather would be trained. His master seemed keen on always taking on such individuals. He was tempted to kill them all. It would simplify matters, but as he turned to look at the pathetic sight of Sierra crying he was reminded of the teachings in the holocron of Darth Radic. "Inquisitor Thrope you will return to the Ringali Shell and work with Governor Rodney to destroy the Rebel cell there. Governor, if you fail again you will find me less forgiving," he said, as he walked back towards Sierra and the baby. "Leave the child to me," he ordered the Inquisitor, as the neverending game between master and apprentice would play out over this boy. "When this boy reaches the age of five you will return to this place. For now, return to whence you came and focus on your tasks," he ordered Sierra, before moving away to reflect on what had transpired. As soon as he exited the platform the door closed behind him, while the door at the other end of the platform that led to the exit reopened.

Sierra was physically shaking. She felt like she was going to be sick, for her pleas were falling on deaf ears. The helpless feeling spread throughout her body. From Lord Vader's mouth came relieving words *and* terrifying ones. Claudius was to be safe for now. An Imperial victory would become necessary. They needed to *never* come here again. Sierra's head snapped towards Lord Vader. He was talking about Bruce. *Her* Bruce. He explained that they were to bring Bruce back on his fifth birthday. She could only assume that Lord Vader would train him, and that the Inquisitor hadn't killed him immediately because the Emperor wanted the same thing. The news was horrible. She would only have Bruce for five years. Sierra stumbled backwards. Her heart had been ripped out of her chest, turned upside down, then replaced. Once Vader was gone, she turned around and dashed back towards Claudius. The tears were never ending and she wasted no time in collecting her husband. "A-A-are you okay?" She sniffled, helping him to his feet. They needed to go *now*.

Ultimately, Jessa had to follow her orders. She was bitter about returning to the Ringali Shell. She was bitter that her master had decided to ruin the Emperor's plans. Now it would be Lord Vader who trained the boy that would someday replace her. She was *angry*. As soon as her master had left, she let out a scream. The lava erupted with her ferocity. She turned around, taking a single moment to stare down Claudius Rodney. She rushed off towards her ship without another word. It was the Governor's failures that had nearly cost her life. "I hate that man!" She growled under her breath. She needed Prav *now*. She was going to bleed her spleen on her poor manservant.

As Claudius watched from his seated position on the floor he expected Lord Vader to strike down his wife and child, so he took it with relief that Vader had spared them and granted them five years with their son. The five years Vader promised seemed like a miracle to the five minutes originally offered by the Emperor. With his wife's help he rose to his feet, before looking towards the Inquisitor who seemed enraged. "I'm fine," he said, as he moved his hand over his uniform to dust off the volcanic ash and stretch out the wrinkles. He would leave with the same dignity that he entered, and he reached out to entwine his arm with hers. "Quite right. Quite right," he told her, as he led his family off the platform with his head held high. He passed the lurking Vaneé and down the stairs that would ultimately take them to the landing platform. The Inquisitor was well on her way, allowing her emotions to be on full display for Vader's attendant and anyone else that should happen to catch a glimpse. He would not allow for such an occurrence. It was only when he returned to the Kwai that he allowed himself to stagger, slowly moving to take a seat. "Get us out of here before he changes his mind!" he pleaded with his wife, as he lowered his head into the palms of his hands.

It felt like Claudius was carrying her out more than the other way around. They departed as they had entered: together. Sierra had been given two gifts today: her husband's life and five years of her son's life. It would be hard to face the day that they returned to Mustafar. Right now, she was counting her blessings...especially the one who had nearly been killed today. She took him to the Kwai shuttle as fast as possible. Once inside, he didn't need to repeat himself. Sierra placed Bruce in his bassinet and sat down at the controls. She immediately began preparing for a quick take off. "Hold on. I'm hauling ass out of here." She told him as she wiped the sweat from her face. With that, the Kwai blasted off of Mustafar. Instead of setting course for Onderon, she set it for Esseles. They needed to go home *now*. Once they had exited the Atravis sector, Sierra felt safe enough to stop clutching the steering for dear life. She reached out with a shaky hand, grasping Claudius' tightly. "That was ... horrifying... Are you sure you're okay? There's some medical supplies in the back..." She was worried about him. She had watched his face change colors as he was nearly choked to death.

As Claudius sat in the rear of the Kwai he was *still* trying to catch his breath. It was closest he had come to death in his long life and he knew it. "I'm fine. Is Bruce okay? ...are you?" he asked her, as he slowly angled his head up to look at his wife. "You were very brave to speak to him as you did, but it was also very foolish. He might have killed you," he informed her, out of genuine concern for her well being. "It seems it was wise for Bruce to be with me, however, for if he had not distracted Vader I likely would have perished," he explained to her, as he continued to examine her for any sign of blemish. "He saved my life," he said, with a nervous laugh and a loud exhale.

Every little breath had become that much more valuable. Sierra nodded her head slowly. "I'm okay. It... It was hard to stand there and watch everything." She admitted. Her cheeks were still tear stained. "Bruce is okay. Lord Vader didn't lay a finger on him." Sierra knew what she had done wasn't the most intelligent action. "I know, I'm sorry I did that. I felt like I had to do *something*." Her heart was still recovering from the incident. She was so relieved that Claudius had survived without injury. It was best case scenario. She could hear Bruce cooing in his bassinet. "Of course he saved your life. He doesn't like it when people are beating up on his daddy." She smiled softly. "Lord Vader is to take him from us at his fifth birthday... It is good news, and bad all at the same time." She looked away from Claudius. "We no longer have to play the game of cat and mouse with the Inquisitor." (D)

"It's okay. It's okay," Claudius said to her, as she began to apologize. "Five years with him is a blessing, Sierra," he said, as he slowly rose back to his feet and moved towards Sierra. "You have now witnessed first hand the power of Inquisitor Thrope and Lord Vader. It is beyond a doubt that within Bruce lays this same ability," he said, as he moved towards the bassinet to look down at the boy. "We cannot train him. And the day may come when we cannot deal with his untrained, uncontrollable power," he said to her, as he grew increasingly fearful. "Being trained by Vader could be considered an honor..." he told her, as he tried to put a bright face on a dark day.

Sierra rose. She digested the words her husband said and reluctantly came to the realization that he was correct. She stood beside him at Bruce's bassinet. He had grown tired from the affair with Lord Vader and now slept soundly cuddled up on his back. It was scary to think that one day Bruce might possess the same powers they had seen up close today. He could unintentionally hurt himself, or someone else in time. "I know you're right. We can't train him. There's no way for us to teach him how to properly live with his powers. Lord Vader will be able to help him." She looked up at Claudius. There were tears in her eyes, "But he is still our son. I will cherish every day of the next five years that has been graciously handed to us... I will also miss him dearly when he is taken from us." She understood the necessity. It was for the better of their son. It simply *hurt*. She couldn't remember a day where she'd shed so many tears. She held Claudius' arm for support.

"We will give him our love and Lord Vader will give him his training, and he will grow into a wise and powerful man that will have a much larger role in the galaxy than either of us intended. It is our goal, in what time that we have, to provide a foundation that will prevent him to be corrupted as Inquisitor Thrope undoubtedly was," he said, as he wrapped his arm around her while they both looked down at the boy. "I cannot accept that anything that is a product of our love can turn to evil," he reassured her, as he turned his head to place a tender kiss upon her neck.

While the Emperor and Darth Vader plotted and schemed the future of the young Bruce in their game of posturing with one another a more distant, elusive figure in the Unknown Regions also sensed the child. After eight centuries the descendant of Darth Crassus and Darth Radic had awakened.

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