Era of Rebellion - Navigation

Alice Bee and Christopher Levy.
One year after the Battle of Yavin (36:3:28) in the Alderaan system: Delaya (Leiliani: Rodney Castle and Sea Islands).
Grand Moff Claudius Rodney and Commander Sierra Rodney.

Since the appearance of Rikka Dakkar, the young Duchess had fallen into a deep depression. Sierra simply was not happy even though her mother had never moved into the Rodney Castle. The choice words Claudius selected in telling her mother off were unknown to her. Seeing the woman had ripped open a gaping hole of insecurities. It showed over night. Her appetite died. Her morning sickness was empowered. She should have known better than to internalize, but that was exactly what she did to cope with how she felt. No matter how many times she looked at the situation with Rikka, she couldn't see it clearly.

Music therapy was Sierra's only crutch. She sat on the balcony of her room dressed in a gorgeous, backless gown that her closest handmaid had *insisted* she wear. Her violin was propped up on her shoulder. She sat with perfect posture. She played to take herself away from her demons. She played to stop herself from dissecting every word that was spoken. Now that she was traveling further down the spiral, Sierra didn't know how to stop until she crashed at the ground floor.

After temporarily dissuading Rikka Dakkar from moving into the castle, Claudius had busied himself with the task of learning about the administration of the planet. It had been a difficult task and he sensed many of the government's ministers were Rebel sympathizers. He could not simply replace them as he did not know who else could perform their duties, nor did he want to insight public opinion against him any further than he had already had. New had come that the Empire would soon be sending someone to investigate the death of the Emperor's advisor, but he decided to shield that news from Sierra for the time being. She had not been the same since her mother's surprise reappearance and he had not handled it well at all. When he returned to the bedchambers he saw the door to the balcony opened and could hear the sound of her violin emanating from it. He stood there frozen, considering his next move, before deciding it best to join her. As he stepped out onto the balcony he said nothing, but simply leaned against the door frame and silently observed her playing.

Communication had not been their strong point lately. Sierra realized her husband was busy. All these new responsibilities had been thrust on him. As much as she tried to continue to be supportive of him, even Sierra was doing a terrible job. Over the sound of her thoughts and the violin, she did not hear Claudius come into the bedchambers. She had no idea that he was several feet away listening to the sweet song she was playing. She seemed very in tune, but even her expert fingers failed her. They tripped over one fret, then another, producing a terrible noise. Normally, she would have recovered and played on. Today, she let her hand holding the bow fall. She placed her violin in her lap. Her head hung, staring at the instrument.

The sound of silence was broken by the sound of Claudius slowly clapping at her performance. "Well I think that was lovely," he said, before moving closer towards her. "How are you feeling today?" he asked, sitting beside her, but based on her body language and facial expression he already knew the answer. If he could cast Rikka Dakkar into a black hole he certainly would. Ever since her arrival things had been miserable for him and his wife, and it seemed as if a black cloud was hanging over them whose shadow they could not escape. This combined with the threats against his family, the likely murder of his father, the war crimes being committed in the Ringali Shell in his name, and his strained relationship with his eldest daughter were all threatening to combine and put him into an early grave. His marriage was the one bright spot in otherwise dark life.

Sierra jumped five feet in the air. His clapping had scared the shit out of her! He was so quiet! "Oh my god!" She placed her hand over her chest. Her heart was thudding irrationally fast. "I-I didn't know you were there. I'm glad you liked it." Sierra reached over to him as he sat beside her. She slipped her hand in his. "I'm okay. I don't think my stomach wants to be inside of me anymore. How are *you*? Did you learn anything exciting today?" It seemed like everything in life was off key right now. Sierra's head was in the wrong place, thus throwing off their lives. She had come to realize long ago that she couldn't function without him, so why was she pushing him away? "Is there anything else you need to do today? Perhaps we can slip off to the islands?"

"Do not worry my dear. You only have about six months of stomach issues ahead of you," Claudius told her, with a slight smirk curling upon his lips. "Nothing exciting. Other than the fact that my father ransacked most of the planet to fill the treasury. And, because of things like Drusilla's expenditures, I cannot simply void the leases of the industrial tenants as it would be a nigh on impossible task to repay them," he lamented, as the problems seemed to be piling up a record pace. "There is nothing else that needs to be done. Nothing that can't wait at least," he said, before rising up and doing his best to help her up. Each passing day seemed to make her more and more heavier. "I would love nothing more than slip away with you to our future island home," he said, before leading her from the slight chill of the balcony into the warmth of their bedchamber.

Sierra laughed. "Your words of comfort are truly astounding." She glared at him before letting a little smirk break over her lips. The news of his father's ransacking was unpleasant. Sierra hoped that they would be able to level things out and fix what Julius had done before Bruce came to age. She sighed. "What a mess. Do you have any ideas as to what you *can* do about it?" Taking his hands, Sierra rose. She had no second thoughts about leaving her violin on the balcony. It wasn't going anywhere.

Goosebumps erupted down her exposed shoulders and back. The halter top dress had been more exposing than she realized. Sierra packed lightly. If there was one place that was going to help her head get to the right place again, it was those gorgeous islands. When they were both ready, she linked hands with him and led him to the landing pad where their ship awaited.

The construction site of their future home was visible from where Sierra lay in the white sand. It felt better being here, but she still fought with the darkness crowding her head. "Claudius," she said, "Are we okay? After my mother reappeared..." Those words were spoken bitterly. "...I've begun to feel so insecure. Given the position we're in," she began, looking away from him. "I just want to make sure our first priority is still each other and our family." She couldn't look at him. It was embarrassing to open up to him. She was supposed to be better than this.

"Of course we're ok, Sierra," Claudius replied, while sprawled out on a beach blanket beside her. He was wearing his glareshades and a long pair of swim trunks as his speedo days were long behind him. "There's no need for you to feel insecure, my love. You are Duchess of Delaya. You could stand to learn a little from my mother's arrogance. If you act secure you will become secure," he told her, with a reassuring nod. In the distance their aquatic home was beginning to take ship ... and not soon enough. "You will always be my first priority, Sierra. *Always*," he replied, putting extra emphasis on the word in his best effort to reassure her. It seemed the arrival of her mother had taken a far greater toll than he realized. Suddenly *he* was beginning to feel insecure.

Her insecurity showed in every sense. She hadn't even bothered to change from her dress to her swimsuit. With all the changes going on with her body physically, becoming sexually unappealing to her husband was just one more thing to worry about. It was relieving to hear him confirm that they were okay even while Sierra couldn't see straight. "Alotta good that did her. Do I need to remind you that your father has a bastard?" Cup, right? That was worst case scenario for someone like Sierra.

She softened further as he provided her with more reassurance. He'd need to remind her sometimes...times like these when she got lost inside of herself. She sat up. The sand came tumbling off of her dress. She scooted closer to him while their bond mended. "Promise?" She turned to face him. She planted her hand on the other side of his body on the towel so she lingered near. Her eyes were searching for a reason to not believe him, yet she found nothing.

"I promise, Sierra," Claudius said, as he turned his head towards her, pulling down his glareshades to look on her with his own eyes. "Just enjoy the pleasant day and try to put the problems of the galaxy away from you. They cannot touch you here," he vowed to her, before rolling over to face her entirely. "I know you did not expect your mother to return, but you have grown into your own woman. She cannot hurt you any longer," he said, as he reached out towards her, placing his hand upon her arm for support. He loved her so much, and it pained him to see her the way she looked now.

He was right. This was their private place of complete security. Rikka Dakkar would never find them here. Claudius had sent her back into the shadows where she could exist without getting close enough to hurt Sierra and her family. It was these words of reassurance that began to release her from the torment she had put herself through lately. She felt his support. She felt stupid for ever thinking that he wasn't there in *this*. She began to cry. Her tears were not sad. If anything, they were relieving. She had wound herself up so tightly. Sierra fell into the arms of the love of her life. She squeezed him tightly. "I love you, Claudius," she cried to him. The crushing weight on her chest had disappeared. He was pulling her normal self back to the surface. She clung to him for minutes. Her soft affection changed when she sudden bit his neck. "Catch me if you *can.*" Sierra dared him as she rose to her bare feet. She danced on the sand towards the crystal blue waves.

Claudius could not bare to see his beloved wife suffering like she was, so as the tears began to flow he moved swiftly from his blanket to hers. She was in his arms in mere moments, drawing her into a tight embrace that was almost unbearably hot given the tropical climate they were in. "I love you so much," he told her, not sure of what to do given her grief stricken state. Before he could react or say anything more to her she was gone ... headed into the crystal blue waters that their home would soon be build upon. He smiled, glad to see some life in her for the first time in days. He was after her after taking a deep breath, but he was no longer quick enough to keep after her. She was into the water before he, his legs thrashing about in the slowly oncoming waves. The cool sensation was heavenly pleasure upon his skin. As he looked out at her a smile came upon his lips. They *would* get through this. He believed they could get through anything.

They could get through anything, that much was true. There was no Option B at this point. Sierra loved him way too much to ever let him walk away. Eventually, the dark clouds above them would part and the sun would shine again. For now, they simply had to keep trucking along while supporting each other. She playfully looked behind her shoulder while darting further into the water. The water pushed back and forth between her legs. His smile was infectious as always. Sierra's smile made an appearance ... and then she was upon him!

She pounced him into the cool, shallow water. "There's too many good things in our future for me to let my past weigh me down so much," she told him, pressing her forehead to his. "Can't you imagine it?" She pointed out towards the construction site. "We will live *there*." She redirected his attention to the sandy beach that they had left behind. "Our family will play here. I can imagine us building a sand castle with our little man ... and, you know, his half a dozen sisters." She laughed. "Everything will be okay because at the end of the day, we get to unwind here together."

Claudius had enjoyed being pounced, as it meant his wife was slowly returning to her old self. But when the subject turned to half a dozen daughters his mood went from elated to panicked in the blink of an idea. "Half a dozen you say?" he asked, as he lifted his head out from beneath the waves to question her. Hopefully she was just choking or else the entirety of the planet's estrogen supply would find itself deposited at his doorstep. "Yes. Everything will be okay. For all of us," he said, as his hand moved to caress her stomach, feeling her quickly developing baby bump. Their time alone would swiftly be coming to an end. Hopefully the contractors working on the house were more efficient than the babymaker that was perched upon him.

"We're already halfway there between Jelena, Drusilla, and Ewwie." Sierra reminded him while laughing. What hell that would be for Claudius and Bruce! They would need to have a special men's getaway during that special week every month or else they'd be drown by hormones. She grinned, glancing down at his hand on her stomach. Each week that went by they grew closer to welcoming Bruce into their lives. She anticipated that day. It was very important that the house be ready *before* the little man arrived. Grinning wider, Sierra's hand joined with his. "I like being pregnant," she admitted to him during all of her terrible morning sickness. "I'm going to be kinder to Bruce from here on out. He doesn't need my stress. Believe it or not, the first trimester is already almost over. Time is flying, my love. Soon you'll have a son."

"Sometimes being halfway to a place isn't *that* bad, my love," Claudius said to Sierra as he contemplated the daunting prospect of an additional three daughters. It was then that Claudius' attention turned to the contractors and droids installing the pylons that would eventually elevate their future home above the sea. "Do you think I should order a squad of Stormtroopers to *motivate* them?" he said, sounding quite sinister, but nevertheless quite serious. He was determined that the work go faster, and he needed new ways to ensure that happened. "A son. It's really hard to believe after all these years. I had put it from my mind and given up..." he said, as his eyes trailed skywards to look at the heavens. "I wish my father, despite his flaws, had lived to see our son born," he said, ruefully, before laying back down upon the beach blanket.

Only time would tell how their family extended. Sierra was thrilled with the way things were now. Fate had allowed her to give Claudius the one thing he had never had yet always wanted. What more could they *really* ask for? She laughed at his sinister idea. "As tempting as that is, I'd prefer that even the Stormtroopers did not know about our new home. It seems like things are going rapidly. There was nothing there last time we stayed on the island. I hope they continue to hurry." The sooner they left Castle Rodney, the better. She was also anticipating the day they had the opportunity to decorate Bruce's room and properly prepare for him.

Before Sierra could join him on his beach towel, she stripped out of her soaked dress. Some sense of self esteem had come back into her grasp, for she wore only a modest pair of panties beneath her dress. The rest of her body was exposed. She laid down on his beach blanket on her side. "When you give up, that's when you get exactly what you want." Such was the case with her falling for Claudius. She was quick to give up on love. When they met, most of her dreams of ever having a husband and a family were already collecting dust on a shelf. She grabbed his hand and squeezed it affectionately. "I'm sorry, my love. I wish the same. You can find comfort in knowing that the news made him very happy. If nothing else, your father died with his life goals accomplished." It didn't matter if his tactics had been ugly or not. Julius had gotten exactly what he wanted.

"I still cannot come to terms with the fact that someone murdered him," Claudius said, as she squeezed his hand, while he unleashed a contemplative sigh. "He was a harmless old man. Nothing was to be gained from it," he continued, before rising up onto his feet. All the while that he spoke he was carefully watching the work being done, never trusting a contractor to be unsupervised. "At least we are safe here. I am not sure if we should have much staff in our new home if you were right about a servant being responsible for the attack on you," he said to her, over his shoulder. He watched with all the impatience of his daughter Drusilla, as he could not help but wonder why it was not done yet. They had just gotten started.

Drusilla could probably get the job done much more quickly than any Stormtrooper. Sierra wouldn't admit it, but she was seriously a little afraid of her! Her eyebrows laced together. Not a day passed where she didn't obsess about the string of terrible events which had occurred. She sat up, drawing her knees into her chest as comfortably as she could. "I don't think so. As much as an adjustment that it'll be, until we figure out who's behind all of this, I'd rather do my own laundry than risk our safety. I have not been able to find the girl yet. None of the details seem to be coming back." She sighed. It was driving her *insane*! "Think about it," she said, drawing with her fingers in the sand. "This has to be about the Duchy. You, your father, and myself have all been attacked. No one has targeted Mother. Zara and Marcus were in town several times. Given the seclusion of their home, it would be easy to hunt them down there and kill much as I hate to say it." For Sierra was oblivious to the Nerf Herder and his little sidekick. "Those behind the attacks are going to be focusing their hate on us more than ever."

"The Duchess of Delaya doing her own laundry? What is the world coming to?" Claudius asked her, jokingly, as he turned around to face her again. The more he stared at the ongoing construction the slower it seemed to go. "Who would want the Duchy? Marcus did not want it. The bastard did not seem to want it. Frankly, even I did not want it," he said, as he moved to search one of the coolers for something cold and refreshing to drink. He offered a drink to Sierra before taking one for himself. "It's not worth anything. The planet is in ecological peril, the treasury is a mess, our trading economy with Alderaan is gone, and the Empire has placed restrictions on us," he complained, shaking his head, before sitting back next to her to enjoy his cold drink. "I think if anyone asked for it I'd simply give it to them," he said, with a soft chuckle. "The only one that ever said they wanted it was Drusilla," he told her, rolling his eyes, before finishing the drink.

She grinned. "The first load should contain clothing you don't care about. When I shrink it to Bruce-sized, I don't want you to feel disappointed." Sierra really wasn't *that* bad. He'd met her mother. You can bet that she was the help in her home growing one else. His question was a good one. Who the heck was motivated to snatch up the Duchy? She had spoken to Zara about it previously to make sure there were no 'hard' feelings. The girl, even younger than her, had seemed relieved. The weight of the Duchy and their soon-to-be-born twins would probably break the two of them. "Hmmmm..." She took the drink from him. "Thank you." It was hot outside on the beach. She drank, still considering the members of the family tree who might want it.

Hearing his complaints reminded her of the bad position they were in. The Duchy had shaken termites out of the wood. Those who wanted something crept out from the shadows. The planet had enough problems by itself...problems that were so difficult to solve. She leaned against him, sighing once more. Sierra laughed, "Clearly she isn't behind any of this. To some, the title is enough to persuade them. What other close relative Rodneys do we have besides Marcus? Or...not so close ones. Anyone who's been majorly scorned..? We're still not counting Drusilla." She was beginning to wonder if Drusilla would ever forget the whole luxury cruiser incident. She was still working out how she was going to fix that.

"Are you certain, my love? There's no telling how angry Drusilla still is about her lost yacht," Claudius said, joking of course, but his youngest daughter had not spoken with him since. "Just an endless array of cousins, but they're all so far removed from the succession that I cannot see why any of them would have motive," he said, before being interrupted by the screech of a thranta flying overhead. Soon the sound of the pylons being hammered into the seabed began to fill the air indicating that their home was entering the next stage of construction. "Well, she's going to be hard pressed to understand how we can afford an island hideaway but not a yacht," he said, turning to see what all the commotion was. "We can afford it, can't we?" he asked, before bringing his hand up to scratch at his curly, salt and pepper hair. He never had bothered to check the budget in his haste to see the project underway. In many ways he had been as irrational as Drusilla in this expenditure.

She let a serious, thoughtful look cross her face. "Welllll. I wouldn't say I'm one-hundred percent certain." She joked. "Don't worry. I've got a plan to smooth things over with our youngest. The yacht tantrum has gone on long enough." It would be difficult to investigate into every cousin in the family tree. If anyone found out that they were looking inside the family for answers, it would case a huge scandal and an endless amount of drama. "I don't know either. I wouldn't take the possibility off the table that someone from within the family is at fault, however. If you kill enough people, the Duchy would fall into one of their hands...or, perhaps I'm too paranoid at this point." She tilted her chin upward to look at him, though her attention was soon directed skyward towards the thranta, then to the finishing of the seabed. They were one step closer to having a home. His question made her grin. "Of course we can. It's one of those reasons you keep me around, right? I eye the finances and tell Drusilla 'no' occasionally." Sierra crept up into his lap for a mid-day snuggle session. She nuzzled her body against his. "What's our estimated time frame now? Do you think my insane hormones can persuade them to work quicker?"

The sound of construction drowned out the noise of the wildlife as they brought civilization to the sea islands. "It takes a lot of courage to say 'no' to Drusilla. It's a feat I've only managed a handful of times in her life," he said to her, before refocusing his attention on the construction. "They say three months, but I don't trust them," he said, shaking his head before moving to get the datapad with the blueprints and estimates. "It really will be a beautiful home for us and our family," he said to her, but there was still the matter of security. "It won't be too long before we have to decide between the Imperial Army and the Alderaan Guard to provide security," he said to her, knowing they had been putting off the decision until the last possible moment. Both options had their positives and their negatives.

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