Era of Rebellion - Navigation

Alice Bee and Christopher Levy.
One year after the Battle of Yavin (36:1:11) in the Essesia system: Esseles (The Void) and Nerf Herder.
Lord Marcus Rodney and Lady Zara Rodney.

Marcus was in the hangar of the top level of the Void doing a preflight maintenance check on the Nerf Herder. He was almost surprised when Min revealed that her personnel had collected it on Delaya and delivered it here for their use. He found an explosive device and tracker affixed to the hull of the ship, which he did not find the least bit surprising. They did not even attempt to cover it up or conceal it as they wanted him to know it was there. He was wearing his distinct black armor, with white holsters and ammo belt, along with a half cape on his left shoulder in a shade of crimson for flare. He was quite the striking figure as he stood there, watched by Stormtroopers, as he loaded his weapons and gear back on the ship. The time was finally at hand to meet with the Imperial that Min wanted a report on and, if possible, hamper their efforts to cause embarrassment and failure. He did not care about the petty bickering between two factions of Imperial Intelligence. All he cared about was satisfying Min's lust for revenge and collecting his pregnant wife and retiring to obscurity in the frozen north of his native Delaya.

The dinner with Min and Tosha had not settled well with the young woman. In fact, it had ushered in dark clouds around Zara's head. She couldn't seem to wipe the image of Min's satisfied face from her mind. That of the Duke's hung close by. If they made it out of this mess alive, things had to change again. She was having a harder time accepting that they'd part ways for this mission. Overall, Zara felt horrible. Despite knowing that the time for Marcus to leave was coming, she found it hard to go see him. It was like she was embarrassed of herself for creating a void of weakness inside of him. Instead, Zara originally stayed in their room and continued her research on the Destroyer. When she could concentrate no more, a small group of Stormtroopers led her up to the hangar.

As soon as she saw her husband, pain pinged inside of her chest *hard*. They hadn't discussed the events of the previous night. Zara had stayed so low key all day, like she was up to something. She stopped several feet away from the familiar ship. She silently studied him. She took note of everything from the way his draped cape moved to the emotions playing on his face. Anxiously, she approached the *Nerf Herder* and began examining it herself. She'd been a ship mechanic for years. It wasn't her first time looking at the *Nerf Herder* either. If there was anything she could do to maximize the ship, she was ready for it. The woman remained awkwardly silent. No one knew what came next.

"They're not fooling around, Zara," Marcus said, from beneath his helmet, as he showed her where the thermite charge was placed. "There's enough thermite here to blow the Nerf Herder three times over," he explained to her, before his hand moved lower. "And here's a tracker with a fairly long range. I think even if I took her into the Unknown Regions they'd be able to track us down," he complained, before stepping aside to look at her, as if for the last time. His hands reached to the side of his helmet, immediately pulling it off, as he revealed the face that was now familiar to her. He placed his hands on each of her shoulders and looked down at her, smiling strangely, but not speaking for fear of breaking the moment. He then sighed, closed eyes, and lowered his head until his lips were upon her. He did not break the kiss, for he knew when it broke he would have to depart. He had left on hundreds of missions, but this was the first time he ever felt afraid, because he knew that if anything happened to him he would never see her again, or their son at all. Had this made him weak like Min implied?

Those powerless feeling knew no depths. The thermite threatened to destroy him whether he succeeded or failed. The tracker was there too. It was so obvious that Zara felt stupid for not noticing it sooner. She could only imagine how long Min had been planning her attack, making sure her ducks were in a perfect row. "Shit..." She cursed under her breath. There was absolutely no getting out of this. Her fingers brushed over the tracker. She examined it to determine if she'd be able to get it off one way or another when he returned. If he returned. Her paling face soon met with his. His hair was standing up in a million ways from having been wearing his helmet. She couldn't manage a smile. Zara wore an expression of completely concern, blue eyes staring into his brown. She didn't want to lose him.

Her arms locked around his neck in a way that said she wasn't letting go. She kissed him back, first bitter sweetly, then with all the passion in her body. Their future had been thrown into the air again. Instead of watching Marcus whisk their giggling baby boy up into the air, she was forced to look at what life would be like without him. She began crying again while they were still kissing. She'd never let him leave. It was the simple solution to the problem. Zara would cling to him for the rest of her life. The kiss slowed and broke into brief, small kisses. "You're going to come back to me." She told him, "I'm going to be with you through all of this." Only as a voice in his helmet, "And when it's all over, I'll wrap you in my arms and never let you go. You'll just have to figure out a way to life like that." She didn't let him respond. Instead, she initiated another kiss. He wasn't leaving!

A tear formed in Marcus' left eye as she spoke, and it took all of his strength to keep from breaking down in front of the Stormtroopers and Black Sun that were around them, watching their every move like hawks. "I love you, Zara. I'm doing this for us ... all three of us," he vowed to her, before she kissed him again, preventing him from getting another word in edgewise. When that second kiss broke he knew it was time to go, and as he let his hands fall off her, and he nervously took two steps backward in the direction of the Nerf Herder. He needed to get his helmet back on so that she would not see his facial expression or the tears that would follow. Once the helmet was on, he broke, and the tears began to flow, and he closed his eyes so that they would not linger upon her.

"I love you so much, Marcus." Zara sobbed into their kiss. Their audience made it impossible for her to try anything. She couldn't save him. She couldn't stop him. The hardest part was actually letting go of him. Her arms felt like putty. They fell to her sides without any control. Unlike Marcus, she couldn't hide her tears. She could only imagine how he was feeling. Too soon, he was out of her grasp and headed towards his ship. Zara forced herself to watch him put on his helmet. She forced herself to watch up until the Nerf Herder had left the hangar. He'd made so many sacrifices for her and Darrus. She imagined the situation would be different if he wasn't trapped with his pregnant wife. Just as he was out of sight, Zara's tears dried up. She darted back to their room, where her own armor and weapons sat on the bed. She immediately began undressing, then redressing again. Nothing fit comfortable. Her armor was tight. Her pants were tight. However, her mind was sharp and set on making this mission work. She could be infinitely more useful from inside. She even had a little vest strategically packed with everything she'd need to destroy the main system of the destroyer. "I'd never let you do this alone." She said quietly to herself. The question was...would Min stop her, or grab a popcorn, sit back, and watch the fireworks?

The flight from the surface of Esseles aboard the Nerf Herder was one of the most difficult of his career. His hands were unsteady on the controls, and he was weakly trembling so much that he wondered if he would even make it through the atmosphere. As the craft accelerated through the atmosphere, he began to experience buffeting as a result of not taking the proper exit angle. He shook his head, exhaling sharply, before adjusting his hands on the controls to find the sweet angle that would limit the turbulence and give him a smoother ride. He would have to get it together if he had any chance of surviving this mission. Min had gotten under his skin more than he wanted to admit, and as the clouds began to dissipate and the blue sky transitioned to the darkness of space all he could think about was getting back to Zara and Darrus. He was not a bounty hunter any longer. He was a husband and an expectant father.

As Zara prepared herself, she realized how much Marcus had changed her. She once kept herself constantly preoccupied with work just to set her head clear. Her emotional capacity had been broken by the death of her parents. Until that day, playing a game with him in the corridors of the Rodney Castle, Zara had been convinced that she would never love. Silly girl. He'd broken up the insanity of her life pre-Marcus. He touched her, reawakening something that had slept inside of her for so long. This wouldn't be the end for them. He was going to be there for the birth of his son and all the milestones that followed. She placed a helmet on her own head before she disappeared. She went back to the hangar with strength in her soul. There, the Storntroopers watched her claim a ship for herself. No one stopped her. No one did anything while the thief made her grand escape ... to fight by her husband's side. This was it, she told herself. When all was said and done, they had to change their lives. Min was right. They weren't the same people anymore. Weaknesses came naturally when you found something worth fighting for.

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