it's so good to see you." Sierra Rodney greeted the
old Ithorian with a hug. The trip to Ithor had been
nothing short of stressful. She practiced in the
Kwai how she'd tell Marcus, yet she still had no
idea by the time the Kwai settled into the herdship
Jubilee. She feared that she would bring the news
that led to Zara having her twins. She had gone to
the only person she knew could help her...the snarky
old Ithorian doctor. She contacted him for a
prenatal exam as it had been sometime since Bruce
was properly checked up on...along with his mother
who wore stress like it was the hottest fashion.
"How are you doing?" She asked him, stepping into
what had become his room inside of the herdship.
"You'll never believe it...actually, you probably
will. Drusilla force fed Ewwiekewwieikkie all the
gems and jewelry. The poor girl has been passing
them for far too long. Any advice?" She had not been
received well on the ship. She dressed in her ISB
uniform, thus making a statement about where her
person Doctor Tohan expected to arrive aboard the
Jubilee was Sierra Rodney. Soon there would be more
Rodneys than Ithorians aboard, he thought to
himself, as he greeted his old friend's wife in the
hangar bay. The hug put pressure on his tired old
bones, but he did not complain, and instead did his
best to return the hug. "I am well, and yourself?
And, more importantly, the child you carry?" he
asked, as he lowered his head to perform a visual
inspection of her. She looked well, but as a doctor
he knew looks could be deceiving. "Drusilla did
what?" he asked, causing both of his mouths to hang
agape as his large, bulbous eyes widened. "Laxative
and lubricant," the wise old doctor replied, being
as practical as possible whenever possible.
"Don't make me
repeat it." Sierra said with a little grin that
faded not long after it appeared. "I'm feeling okay.
I was hoping you'd be able to check on my son. Life
has been increasingly difficult lately. It's testing
every stress management technique I know." She
nodded her head: laxative and lubricant, got it. She
should have thought about that sooner, only she
could imagine how terrible the outcome would be. She
and Claudius would have to gut the refresher. "Can
we go somewhere private to talk?" She asked him. The
tone of her voice said it was serious.
voice grew serious he was convinced of one of two
things. Either that she was experiencing a genuine
complication with her pregnancy, or she was
overreacting as a first time expectant mother. "Of
course, milady," he said, as he grasped hold of his
walking stick in one hand, and her arm in the other
and began slowly waddling through the winding
corridors of the Jubilee. After what seemed like the
longest short walk in history they arrived at the
herdship's sickbay where he expected he would be
asked to examine her. "Now, milady, what symptoms
are you experiencing?" he asked her, as his large
eyes slowly blinked.
was continuing to breed inside of her as Pilaq led
her by the arm. It was he who kept her feet moving
forward, and not backward to her ship. At the sick
bay, Sierra made herself as comfortable as she could
while trying not to vomit on Doctor Tohan. "I've
been feeling sick again." She informed him. He
wasn't about to find out about the acrobatics she'd
been doing with El-Nay and Kerrie on Delaya. "The
occasional light headedness. I know only you can
provide me with peace of mind. I worry for the
little guy." She looked at him. Where did she start?
How did she start. "Are... Are Marcus and Zara doing
attempted to help Sierra onto an examining table,
but was not as much help as he used to be. Once she
was in position he moved a device over her stomach
and suddenly a three dimensional image of what would
soon be her son appeared on the monitor. Doctor
Tohan studied it intently, before allowing her to
see. "All is well, Milady," he informed her, as he
allowed her to gaze upon the image. "It is to be
expected while pregnant, but I will nevertheless
prescribe you something for your stomach," he said,
before tapping his long digits into his datapad.
"They are doing well. She is now less than three
weeks away from her expected due date," he reminded
Sierra, before transmitting the prescription to the
medical staff on the Retributor. "Ready to burst,"
he declared, with two warm smiles, as he looked to
her. "And how is Claudius?" he asked, as he moved to
take a seat. It was getting harder to stand for long
With his help,
she laid back on the examining table and lifted her
tunic to reveal her stomach. She stared at the
doctor. It wasn't until he informed her that the
child is well that some of her tension disappeared.
She looked down at the device. She was shocked to
find that Bruce looked more and more like a baby.
She wasn't even halfway along yet, and he already
had little fingers and toes. Seeing Bruce was just
what she needed. "Thank you, Doctor." She sighed. He
was kind to her. She planned to steal him away from
Zara and Marcus once the twins were a little older.
After all, Pilaq was the only doctor she trusted to
help bring her and Claudius' son into the world. She
smiled when he spoke of Zara, laughing gently. "I'm
sure they are excited. She seemed as proud as a
peacock at their baby shower." As for his question
of Claudius, her smile remained. Life was hard yet
he continued trucking right along. "He's doing okay.
He's actually the reason why I've come to Ithor."
She looked away from Pilaq. "I don't even know how
to say it. We recently learned that Livia perished."
Though Sierra no longer wore the ring of the Duchess
of Delaya on her finger. She intended to gift it to
Zara. Sierra continued on. "A lot happened. Claudius
was forced to abdicate. I'm sure his Majesty would
have personally overseen his death if he hadn't."
She rolled her head towards Pilaq. "And so, he has
sent me here to inform Marcus that his mother is
dead and he is now the appointed Duke of Delaya."
listened to Sierra catch him up on current events he
felt that he needed to sit down, but unfortunately
for him he was already sitting down. "Oh dear!"
Pilaq exclaimed, as he was shocked by what had
transpired. "Oh dear! Oh dear!" he repeatedly, as he
felt nothing but empathy for the House of Rodney
over the sudden and unexpected shock of the loss of
Duchess Livia. "He could not bring himself to tell
his brother himself?" he asked, as he looked towards
her with empathetic eyes. "It seems you must be the
bearer of burdensome news, milady," he said to her,
as he unleashed a heavy sigh from both of his mouths
that caused a gust of wind to flow through the room.
"Well, don't look to me. I'm a doctor, not a
courier," he explained to her, as he slowly rose
from the chair. "I do not envy you this task, but
the sooner you get it over with, the better for
everyone," he asked, before providing her with a
second prescription. This one had a single word,
Oh no!! He was
going to die! "Breath, Doctor!" She reminded him.
She looked like she was scared. How did one even
perform CPR on an Ithorian? The House of Rodney was
hurting. Marcus Rodney was not going to like her
after this visit either... especially if she caused
his wife to go into labor. Sierra began adjusting
her cream top over her tummy. "It's more complicated
than that. Needless to say, it is impossible for
Claudius to leave his post right now." She sat up
slowly, then stood. "Please be on stand by. I have
no idea what's going to happen when I tell them. The
timing couldn't possibly be worse." She embraced the
doctor once more, this time it was softer in
remembrance of his frail state. "Can you point me in
the direction of their suite?... Actually, I saw
someone carrying around Zara's favorite Auntie
Mae's. Can you tell me where that is please?" If
nothing else, maybe a peace offering would soften
Zara Rodney was having a good day. As pregnant as
she was, the days where she felt exceptional were
becoming less and less. She was seated on the bed
with her legs crossed. Before her, a scrabble board
was laid out. She was aligning the letters to form
the word 'kiss'. "Okay, I win! Now kiss me!" She
declared, though she was behind by a pathetic amount
of points. Apparently, Marcus was the king of
scrabble. "Maybe you'll get lucky next time ... or
right now." She teased her husband, leaning over the
game board to snag a kiss from him. The Ithorian
lady doctor had brought some games by earlier. She
also brought a bassinet of appropriate size so that
the twins could sleep together in the beginning. It
sat beside their bed as a pleasant reminder that
they would soon be parents.
had awoken aboard the Jubilee thinking it was just
an ordinary day. One of nineteen left before he
became a father. He lay there with his wife, who at
this point could not manage more than laying. They
were playing a board game, or a bored game, given
the level of excitement they had experienced during
their first year together. He was losing, and not
because he wanted to give his wife the satisfaction
of winning, but because his vocabulary was sorely
limited from years of not paying attention in
school. As he attempted to form a meager word he had
no idea his life had already changed, and he was
about to be thrust back in the role of Duke of
Delaya, which he thought he had skillfully avoided
once and for all. "Sword," he spoke aloud, as he put
the simple five letter word on the board. Now
weapons he knew!
bright eyed and bushy tailed. She tapped her fingers
on her chin as he laid out his next word. She saw he
had moved on to a new category of words and wanted
to beat him to the punch. As she began laying out
letters, there was a knock at the door. "I wonder if
that's Doctor Tohan's lady love." She giggled,
already beginning to scoot towards the edge of the
bed. "I got it! I gotta get my exercise for today."
Zara stood. She adjusted her muumuu, as it seemed
like that's all she was capable of wearing these
days. She was beginning to question how Marcus still
saw her as attractive. As she approached the door,
she touched the pad to the side of it. The door
swung open. Zara's eyes turned as big as dishes.
"Sierra?!" She stepped forward, wrapping her arms
around her sister-in-law.
gone to Auntie Mae's with the intention of getting
something for Zara. . . That was before she ended up
seated at the little makeshift parlor, eating the
ice cream while rocking back and forth like a rape
victim. She was about to put Marcus in an early
grave. She forced herself to go through with it.
Zara even greeted her kindly at the door, to which
she hugged the girl as best as she could. "Hello
sister, brother." She looked up towards Marcus. "I
hear the twins will be here soon. Claudius and I
can't wait to meet them." She could feel the ring
box holding Livia's ring in her pocket. Her skin
looked pale. She was sweating despite how cold the
room was. When Zara let go and let her in, Sierra
didn't greet Marcus any further. She simply sat down
before her knees gave out on her. "Are you both
doing well? I'm sorry we haven't been able to chat
much, Zara." She said to her sister, who she had
begun having regular conversations with.
up from the board when he heard a knock at the door,
worrying it might have been that loyalty officer
coming 'round again. Unfortunately, because of
Zara's size he could not see past her to determine
who was at the door. It was only when he heard her
say the name that he realized who it was, and rose
out of the bed to greet his sister-in-law. "What
brings you to Ithor? Is everything alright?" he
asked, pressing her immediately. He feared the worst
following the Battle of Delaya, and wondered what
her true purpose was for being here. As nice as she
was, he doubted she would come all this way just to
visit before the delivery.
It was hard to
even look at Marcus. It had been difficult to reveal
to Claudius what had happened to his mother ... and
now this. He suspected something was up right away.
While he was correct, he couldn't possibly guess
what was happening. She forced her eyes towards him.
Her face said it all: it wasn't alright. "Please,
sit." She commented to both of them. "You won't want
to be standing when you hear what I have to say."
Sierra crossed one of her legs over the other. She
sat back, forcing herself to normalize her breathing
so she didn't pass out. When both of them had sat,
Sierra began to recount her story. "A few days ago,
an Imperial slut by the name of Arden Zevrin
informed Claudius and I that..." She paused, her
eyebrows knotting tightly. "That your mother was
dead." She felt hollowed out already. "I enlisted
El-Nay and Kerrie to aid me in returning to Delaya
and discovering the truth." She looked down at her
feet. "I'm so sorry, Marcus. It *is* true. She's ...
she's..." Sierra felt emotional again. She was gone.
into the room. She made herself comfortable again on
the bed. She settled next to Marcus, just as curious
as he about what was going on. She assumed Sierra
had come for her monthly check up. Instead, she
began to speak. Zara's hand slid into her husband's
as her sister-in-law recounted her story: going back
to Delaya, discovering that Marcus' mother really
was gone. The woman had no love for each other, but
she felt empathy for her husband. She instantly
wrapped her arms around him. "Marcus..." They had
feared that she had perished in the Battle of Delaya.
Now they knew it was *true*. She offered him two
small shoulders to cry on.
recently lost his father, who had been quite ill for
sometime. He had time to prepare for it, but he
never expected to lose his mother so soon. She
looked so well at the baby shower just a short while
ago. He wanted his mother to have seen his two
children and he had come so close only to lose her
now like this. "How..?" he asked Sierra, it was the
only word he could find at a moment like this. Had
someone murdered her like their father? He was glad
to have Zara at his side, and he turned into her to
take comfort in her presence. He would have been
lost without her.
She kept him
close to her. She didn't need to imagine his pain.
She *knew* it. Her mother had died suddenly. She
sympathized with him, holding him close to her
breast like she was trying to shield him from the
pain. Even Zara looked to Sierra for answers. It had
all come about too quickly. She also wondered why
Claudius had not come with her. Was he okay? What
the hardest question. She had not filled her husband
in on such a detail. She didn't know how long that
video would play in her head. It was hard to see
Livia like that. Sierra's eyes were bloodshot. She
knew she was going to cry all the way back home.
This was all so *painful*. "She ... she killed
herself... There is no question about it." She
informed him sadly. Her mouth was dry. She didn't
know if she could keep talking to them or not.
Pushing on felt miserable. "There's more." She
revealed, finding it harder and harder to swallow.
"While departing from Delaya, we received a distress
signal from Mug's wife...the Rebel Commander. I came
to find out that she and Jelena were being held in
the castle by Governor Arundel. I told Claudius I
was going back to save her." She dropped her leg
from on top of the other one and rose. "El-Nay and
Kerrie were both badly injured. We saved Jelena but
the mission would have never been a success if
Claudius hadn't brought the Retributor to Delaya."
She stood in front Marcus, the future Duke of Delaya.
"He was reprimanded for acting so rashly." She put
her hand in her pocket. "He was given the choice
between abdication and death." She pulled the box
forth, opening it and presenting it to Zara. "This
is Raeni Corliss' ring, the very first Duchess of
our family." She explained. "It has been passed
through the family from one Duchess to another. As
the previous Duchess, I gift this to you. You will
rise as the new Duchess."
brought more questions. The fact that his mother had
killed himself only made things more painful. He
never should have left Delaya without her ... he
could not help but put some of the blame on himself.
But before he could ask more questions about his
mother news came of not one, but two missions to
Delaya. "Why did no one contact me?!" he asked,
infuriated at being left out, particularly when the
lives of his friends and family were involved. But
before he could press Sierra on that ... there was
more news ... news that directly involved him and
would change not just his life, but the life of Zara
and the twins as well. "No..." he said slowly,
having promised Zara he would never allow this
happen to him and his family. "No. I cannot. It is
too much to ask of me, of my family," he explained
to Sierra, as he lowered his head, trying to process
the alarming array of news she had just given him.
that Marcus was needed by his wife's side, not going
about wild missions in Delaya. She felt for Marcus
and his family. He was preparing for fatherhood and
now the responsibilities of a planet had been thrust
upon him. She touched his knee to offer her support.
"You *have* to." She pressed. "I was there. Our
people are suffering and no one is doing anything
about it. You can make life better for them." Sierra
pleaded with her brother-in-law.
It was all so
much to take in. Livia Rodney did not strike Zara as
the type of woman who would kill herself. She
imagined that she'd be fighting off death until the
last second. Now she was gone. Sierra kept rambling
on. The woman rapidly filled them in on the going
ons of her life and their family. It all came down
to the presentation of a ring: the ring of
Duchesses. Zara wasn't sure how to handle all of
this information. She gasped. She was faced with the
life that her and Marcus had so desperately tried to
avoid. It had come back to haunt them. Her ache for
her husband grew. It was all so much for him and
their family. She rested a hand on her
sister-in-law's. "Can you give us some time please?"
Sierra was understanding. She left the ring box on
the bed beside Zara before making her departure from
their bedroom. Zara waited until the door was
closed, then she brought Marcus back into her loving
embrace. Her nose nuzzled his chin until she
succeeded in getting him to look up into her eyes.
Zara kissed him. They had already been through so
much together. It seemed fate now had a different
plan for them.
As the kiss
ended, she took his head into her hands. "My sweet
Marcus. It doesn't seem like it was all that long
ago that we ran for the north hoping to escape all
of this. At that time, all I could see was my fears.
The heir and the spare...I hate that saying. I hate
that they call you that. I hate that you received
less because that's all you were seen as. I was
scared that would happen to our family. I was scared
that we weren't ready for it." She offered him a
little smile. "It's taken time, but I feel
differently now. The more I've gotten to know you,
the more time we've spent together, the answer has
become so obvious. You *should* be Duke. You are so
different from your father. You can implement
change. You can stop Delaya from becoming a polluted
wasteland. You *can* help those people." She pressed
her forehead into is. "I'm okay with it. I'm ready.
We can do this together. We can raise our children
differently from you and your brother. I believe in
you, Marcus. You've got a good, big heart. You
should share it with all of the people of Delaya."
The kiss was
much needed and the only thing that could bring
Marcus back to reality. Her words of encouragement
were all he needed to get through of this darkest of
days. Without saying a word he rose from the bed and
moved towards the box Sierra set on the table. In it
he looked at the ring of Raeni Corliss and thought
of all that it stood for, but to him it was simply
the ring his mother wore. He took it into his hand
and moved back towards her, attempting to slide it
onto her finger. Unfortunately, her fingers were so
swollen from the pregnancy that it would not go on.
He rose, again, moving towards the kitchen where he
searched for some butter. Moving back towards her he
slathered her finger and the ring itself in the
butter before forcing it onto her finger. "Well, now
I have to do it, because there's no way to get that
ring off," he said, as he leaned forward and placed
another kiss upon her. "I will do this as long as
you are at my side, because with you know I can do
anything," he said, before kissing her again, and
gradually laying back down with her in the bed. He
was to be Duke after all.