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Alice Bee and Christopher Levy.
One year after the Battle of Yavin (36:5:8) in the Ottega system: Jubilee.
Duke Marcus Rodney, Commander Sierra Rodney, Duchess Zara Rodney, and Doctor Pilaq Tohan.

"Doctor Tohan, 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 involvements were.

The last 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.

When Sierra's 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.

The discomfort 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 well?"

Pilaq 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 durations.

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."

As Pilaq 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, 'pudding'.

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 the blow.

Meanwhile, 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.

Marcus Rodney 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!

Zara was 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.

Sierra had 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.

Marcus looked 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.

Zara waddled 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.

Marcus only 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 about Ewwiekewwieikkie?!

Marcus asked 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."

Answers just 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.

Sierra knew 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.

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