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Alice Bee and Christopher Levy.
One year after the Battle of Yavin (36:5:9) in the Ottega system: Jubilee.
Duke Marcus Rodney, Duchess Zara Rodney, and Doctor Pilaq Tohan.

Duke Marcus Rodney was standing in his room aboard the Jubilee, looking at himself in the mirror to see if he looked any different now that he had assumed the title. He made a series of faces as he examined himself, and after staring at it much longer than he should have he began to think he was looking older. "Zara..." he said, as he raised his face to examine the inside of his nose to see how the hair was growing. "I think I should return to Delaya alone if it's as dangerous as Sierra implied," he said, knowing he was going to get an argument. "We're just over two weeks away from your delivery date. Why take the risk?" he asked her, as he moved over to the few inches of bed space he could still claim. "I swear I won't be gone long," he told her, as he reached out to rub at her swollen cankles.

The news of their life altering yet again was something Zara had taken relatively gently. She was happy that they were going to return *home*, even if home wasn't going to be in the north anymore. Sierra had even given her some tips before leaving, like how uncomfortable the seating arrangements were. She had also offered her ear to Zara whenever she might need it. Currently, she was beached on the bed. Movement was becoming a thing of the past. She did, however, make the effort to dress herself. She even had leggings on. If she was going to be the Duchess of Delaya, then she needed to work on presentation.

She was watching him, snickering behind his back. He hadn't changed at all...and that was the best response she could have asked for. Together, they'd navigate through all this insanity. She didn't even know why he mentioned them not going to Delaya together. She gave him a look that silently said *seriously*?! His ankle rub felt nice, but it wasn't enough to derail her. "Marcus, I'm *fine*!" She reassured him, despite the fact that she was so uncomfortable that she was sleeping less and less. Joys of the third trimester with twins. "I want to come with you. I promise I won't do anything crazy." Ultimately, Zara didn't want to be separated from her husband. If she went into labor without him there, she didn't know what would happen. She had been extra clingy lately. "Please..?" She pouted.

"I know *you* want to come with me, Zara," Marcus replied, as he moved his hand to other leg and did everything within his power to comfort her. "The problem is your body is currently a human a transporter for our twins, and wherever you go they *must* follow," he said, as he offered her a fake, pouting face reminiscent of his niece. "It's really them I don't want to go," he said, trying to reason with her in a way he thought might actually work. Her begging was enough to unnerve him, and as she pouted he broke eye contact, staring at the floor instead. There was no more powerful force in the galaxy than a pregnant pout.

Her hand touched his. She understood, but she couldn't stop herself from making this difficult for him. She wanted him by her side all the time...especially right now. Her eyes wandered down to her tummy. They'd played a game the prior evening where she laid on her back while they tried to find out how much they could stack on her stomach before the twins kicked everything off. Yeah, they needed to spend more time outside of their room. It really was big. She dreaded the idea of returning to Delaya right now. Her feet didn't like the notion either. She frowned, nodding her head softly in silent acceptance. "Can't we... Can't we *all* go?" She asked suddenly.

"Like, the whole ship." She assumed it would be fine to travel that far, though she could never be sure. Life on the herdship was still very new. "Maybe the Ithorians can help fix Delaya. Look at their planet." She said, nodding towards the viewpoint. "It's *gorgeous*. If they can do that for Delaya, it'll be so good. It'll also make people more accepting towards them... So I hope...ugh!" She gasped as a rambunctious twin kicked into her lung. She coughed. "Someone's... Foot... in my lung..."

Marcus looked around their surroundings slowly, having almost forgotten that it was a ship. But that's exactly what it was. "Zara, I sincerely doubt the people of this herdship would want to leave Ithor just to accommodate you," he said, with a small chuckle at the thought of it. "You're filling into your title of Duchess very well, *milady*," he said to her, as his hand moved a little further up his leg in his continued effort to comfort her. "Is it gorgeous. They respected their world, but my world was squandered," he said, as he remembered their earlier discussions about improving the environment of Delaya.

She laughed. "Hey! It wouldn't be just for me. Darrus and Sia would get a nice ride too." She reminded him as she crossed her arms over her chest and resumed her pout. "Who says they won't want to move their ship? I bet they could help clear up all the yucky pollution. I think Sir Tentacles would be happier if it wasn't so cold by his lake. Have you ever even seen the city without a pollution cloud, Duke Marcus?" She tossed him a look, adjusting until she could breath properly again. She was so ready to be a mother. It was beginning to feel like the twins were taking over. Soon she'd be a mindless Mommy bot.

There would be no dissuading her, so Marcus saw no point in continuing to argue the point with her. "Fine," he said, as he released his hand from her leg. Now he was the one who needed to be soothed. "You can talk to the Ithorians and attempt to persuade them to move the vessel to Delaya," he told her, as he allowed his hands to rise in front of them and then slowly fall back down. "Just don't be too disappointed when they say 'no'," he said to her, as he leaned forward over her massive stomach to place a brief kiss upon her lips. He felt like quite the strategist as he had given into her, but still expected to get the same outcome when the Ithorians declined her request.

"Okay. That's fair... If I can get them to agree to it, then we *all* go. If not... I guess you get to go alone *but* you better come back fast." Or else she'd be a very unhappy woman. Though she agreed not to be disappointed *if* they said no, Zara knew she would be. She shared a short kiss with him. Her hands ran down his face, neck, and shoulders. She loved him very, *very* much. Sierra had painted a terrible picture of Delaya. She didn't like the idea of Marcus diving into it by himself. That horrible Imperial Governor was still there too. Slowly, Zara rose from the bed. "I'm gonna go talk to Pilaq. I bet he knows who's in charge of the herdship. You're not allowed to leave until they tell me no." She tried to sound fierce. In reality, she just sounded scared. With one last kiss, Zara went waddling off determined to change the *world*.

She knew exactly where to find good ol' Doctor Froggy... Er, Pilaq Tohan. Zara was out of breath by the time she reached the sickbay. *Gasp*, how did people deal with having triplets.. Quadruplets ... *or more*?! She gave herself a minute to feel like she wasn't going to pass out, then approached the old Ithorian doctor. "Hi Doctor Tohan," she said happily.

Doctor Tohan was alone in his sickbay sampling the latest flavor of Auntie Mae's when he unexpectedly saw Duchess Zara at arrive. "What are you doing here?" he asked, as he rose from his seat and moved towards her. He did his best to help the woman sit down before she went into labor right on the spot. "Is everything alright?" he asked, as he hovered over her, almost as overprotective as Marcus had been. "You know I said I would come to you if you needed help," he said to her, as he reached for one of his devices to begin examining her before she even told him what was wrong.

They were all so delicate with her. It was like Marcus and Doctor Tohan saw her as a ticking bomb. Zara was beginning to accept her fate. The end was near. One way or another, the twins were going to come out. She gulped as she sat down. Doctor Tohan was moving quickly as he prepared to examine her. She caught his hand. "Wait...Everything's okay. I came here to see *you*. I can still walk. There's no reason to have you travel across the ship so we can have a conversation." She released his hand. "Besides.. I owe you. How many times did you go up those stairs at my house?" She asked him with a grin. "I had this crazy idea. Marcus doesn't think it'll work. I thought you'd be the best person to share it with." She released his hand.

"Delaya is really polluted and messed up right now. Now that we're going to be..." She paused. She wasn't ready to say it yet. Marcus had forced Livia's ring on her finger. Its new weight was, quite frankly, cutting the circulation off to her finger. "Well, you *know*. We have to start doing things to clean up the planet and undo the damage. I was thinking... Who better to help us than Ithorians?" She smiled brightly. "The herdship could go there. Everyone can work *together* to make a difference. I want to change the way people see Ithorians too. I didn't like what I saw on the HoloNet after I went to Doctor Bailo's class. She was nice to can people take kindness and be so hateful?" She frowned briefly, but her eyes lit up almost immediately. "Speaking of Doctor Bailo..." Her eyebrows wiggled. "Anything going on there?" Zara felt nervous about sharing her idea with Pilaq. She would rather tease him about the lady doctor.

When Zara suggested the herdship move to Delaya he was so surprised that his medical device fell from his hand and rattled on the floor. His eyes blinked slowly as he considered her request and the implications it would have on his people. Millennia ago they traveled to damaged worlds and did exactly what she was asking, but that was before the Empire placed restriction on their world. It hade made them cautious about their interaction with humans. *All* humans. But before he could reply she began to question about Doctor Bailo. His heart began flutter, and his long fingers began to move about nervously. "No. Nothing," he replied, slowly, as he shifted his glance away from her. "I will speak with my people about your request," he blurted out, if only steer the conversation away from Doctor Bailo.

Eek! This conversation was starting off *great*. Zara wondered if Pilaq thought it to be a bad idea too. She cheeks flushed. She felt like she was wearing shoes ten sizes too big for her feet...which was pretty crazy considering how swollen her poor feet were. Zara stayed attuned to the doctor enough that she noticed him getting flustered over Doctor Bailo. Though he'd agreed to deliver her idea to whoever was in charge... Which, come to think of it, she had no idea who that was. She pressed forward. "You're a nice guy, Doctor. You should spend some time with her. I saw her get all blushy the last time she saw you. She *likkessss* you." And if he didn't begin to make time for Doctor Bailo, then she would figure out a way to make it happen. Zara really needed to have these children. "Can I come with you? I don't want anyone to think that we're like the people on the HoloNet. Clearly, we have no problems with Ithorians." She winked.

When Zara suggested that Doctor Bailo *liked* him, his heart began to beat out of his chest so loudly that she could probably hear it. "Yes. You may come with me ... provided that you table the discussion of my romantic life," he said, as he felt compelled to make whatever bargain he could to avoid being the next contestant on Zara's love connection. Taking hold of his walking stick he rose slowly from his chair, and began slowly moving towards the corridor. It had been many years since he had walked these halls, fleeing from the Empire after he gave speeches against their trespassing on the surface of the planet. If not for Claudius' interventions he likely would have been sent to the spice mines of Kessel or blasted into who knows what. When he reached the center of the ship where the elders of the herd dwelled he paused, slowly looking towards Zara. "I cannot remember the last time a human entered. I make no promises," he informed her, before pushing the door open with his walking stick. As he entered the circular room at the heart of the Jubilee they began to get quizzical looks from the most venerable and revered members of the herd.

Oh, she could hear it alright! Zara laughed. "I'll table it ... for now." Too much effort later, Zara found herself on her feet again. She liked walking with Pilaq. He ran in Zara-friendly speed, whereas Marcus' long strides and lack of a pregnant belly ensured that she was always the slow one. She felt nervous. The walk took them a century. A century was a lot of time to consider what she was doing. The nervous feelings bred with each other like rabbits until Zara was full of them. "Um." She said, suddenly clutching Pilaq's hand.

She hadn't traveled to the center of the ship before. She was still busily making friends in her section. Pilaq provided no words of encouragement as they entered the room. Within the room, Zara faced a panel of ancient Ithorians. They made Pilaq look like a young tadpole! "Oh my." Zara tugged on his hand. "This is a bad idea." She whispered. "Marcus was *right*, they'll never go for it." This had been an idea that popped into her head an hour ago. Now she was presenting it to the elders of the herd? Nope! She was going to run back to Marcus, rip the ring off of her finger, and tell him she was the worst Duchess ever. The only problem was that they had been noticed now. There were so many eyes ... so many mouths ... so much *attention*. Zara coughed. "H-Hello..." It would have been the ideal time to go into labor right then!

A dozen sets of bulbous eyes narrowed on the pregnant Zara with a mix of fear and anger behind them. To the Ithorians Zara represented all humans, especially the Empire. A sound of indistinguishable murmuring began to fill the room as they all discussed the brash action taken by their herd leader. Pilaq walked into the center room and began to slam his walking stick into the ground repeatedly. Gradually the murmuring receded like waters after a flood. "This human is not responsible for the plight of our people," he declared, slamming his walking stick down again. "Her people have suffered the same as us, and now she comes before you to ask for your help," he said, as he moved slowly in a circle to look at them all. "I had not the courage to face the Empire those years ago when I left. Now I wish to find that courage and right the wrong done to her world. Please honor my request and hear her voice," he said, before bowing, painfully, to all those in attendance, and stepping aside to let the Duchess speak.

She randomly wondered if the video of her and Marcus had reached these people too. They were muttering quietly. Zara was smart enough to fill in the blanks. After all, Pilaq had told her that a human had not been in here for some time. Now here she was, nervously making a plea for help to some of the most close-minded Ithorians. She could no longer cling to Pilaq as he took the center of the room. His walking stick silenced all the voices. Finally, he was able to speak without speaking over anyone else. She listened, quietly wishing she knew the whole story of Pilaq, the Empire, and how he'd eventually come to serve House of Rodney. She took a deep breath. He was a wonderful friend. No matter what happened, she felt gratitude that he had cleared the way for her.

Slowly, Duchess Zara Rodney crept towards the middle of the room. She looked terrified by the notion of speaking to so many people. Her father was a public speaker...not her. She was a thief who stole a chronometer from a wonderful nobleman. Taking a deep breath in, Zara began to speak. "Thank you for hearing me speak. My name is Zara. I'm to be the Duchess of Delaya." She spoke the words. She made it true. Somewhere, Livia was rolling in her grave. She'd be so angry if she knew Zara had acquired the title of Duchess. "It is true. My planet was recently attacked by the Empire, but my planet suffered long before then. Our land is badly polluted. This pollution is so extreme that it's changed the environment in what used to be the luscious, untouched lands on Delaya. My people need help rebuilding. My planet needs help. We all need to learn what we can do to stop this from ever happening again. There is no one who knows how to care for the environment more than Ithorians." She gulped. "I'm asking if you will move the herdship to Delaya briefly just to *help* us."

Zara's impassioned plea was met with the sound of silence. However, Pilaq Tohan, the wiley old herd leader did not come to his by chance. As Zara was speaking he was opening the door and slowly the room began to fill with the youngest members of the herd ... the children she had been reading to. "This is not just a decision for the old, but for the young as well," he announced, with a loud slam of his staff. The children began to swarm Zara, tugging at her, and begging for her attention and affection. The elders could not resist the vision and began applauding the young Duchess and her bravery for standing up to the Empire and embracing the Ithorian people. It had been decided ... the herd was going to Ithor.

The silence made for one very loud answer. Zara had failed to move the council. She had no idea that Pilaq was secretly helping her. She hadn't looked back at him yet. She was still staring at the ancient Ithorians, trying to find her voice to continue her plea. With the loud slam of Pilaq's staff, all the little children came swarming her. It was an amazingly happy moment in her life to be surrounded by so many children. Zara was happy to bend down and play with them. It was one of the highlights of her day to come read to them...she even did voices, which were ridiculous at times. To her surprise, even the elders began to applaud. They were going to do it! The young Duchess began to cry, ninety-percent because of hormones, ten-percent because she was happy that she had done something to help Delaya. She was determined to restore it and to bring her people *hope*. "Thank you... Thank you so much..." Zara sobbed, squeezing five young Ithorians in one big hug. Ooh, she was going to have the biggest 'I told you so' moment with Marcus. She couldn't wait to tell her husband.

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