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Alice Bee and Christopher Levy.
One year after the Battle of Yavin (36:5:23) in the Essesia system: Retributor.
Commander Kerrie Kiley, Grand Moff Claudius Rodney, Major Sierra Rodney, and Colonel Arden Zevrin.

Colonel Arden Zevrin was in her office aboard the Retributor, signing off on the death warrants of everyone rounded up on Corulag ... in the name of Grand Moff Rodney. It was quite a satisfying experience, and thankfully she had five more to look forward to. She placed the datapad down and turned to her cup of caf, sipping it slowly to stay awake. Ordering the execution of so many was tiring work and without the stimulation of the caf she surely would have needed a nap by now, but there was no rest for the wicked. Her attention next turned to the HoloNet propaganda for the next concert, advertising how Lady Rodney would go on performing for the benefit of the citizens, despite the Rebel efforts to stop her. Oh, how she loved her schemes.

Major Sierra Rodney was putting her foot down. The first relief concert had been overwhelming and terrifying. It was the mess on Corulag that reminded Sierra that she wasn't suited for war. She'd been terrified...and El-Nay, poor El-Nay. The Mandalorian had not come out from her bacta tank in the medical bay on the Retributor. Sierra had made a point to visit her several times, anxiously awaiting her friend to return. She had been avoiding confrontation with Arden all day. As the chronometer closed in on leaving time, Sierra decided to leave her desk and make her way to Colonel Zevrin's office. She felt anxious all the way there. Mentally, she tried to pump herself up. She had visualized what she would say to Arden in the bathroom mirror this morning. All of her preparations would fall short for what was to happen within the woman's office.

Without knocking, Sierra barged in. "Colonel Zevrin! I refuse to play anymore of these concerts!" She declared, instantly feeling proud of herself for starting out on the right foot. "I will not help you kill innocent people!" Though Sierra was opening her mouth and making herself sound fierce, she kept space between them. She didn't want to be mauled by the tiger.

Arden raised her eyebrows when Sierra stormed into the room. "I'm sorry, but the show must go on," she said, whimsically, as she stared down the Major. "We've advertised heavily. You have a sold out show, and the charities are depending on you," she said, before she rose from her chair, circled around her desk and moved towards Sierra. She placed her hand on Sierra's shoulder, while offering a fake frown. "Now, now. Tell Arden what's wrong," she cooed, almost sweetly, as she looked at her. "It wasn't a total disaster. You weren't harmed, the charities got their money, and we were able to round up enemies of His Majesty. What more could could you ask for," she said, sweetly as she tried to buck up her confidence before lowering the boom.

Sierra's face began to fall. She wasn't going to take *no* for an answer. "You can find someone else to do it." That was the first statement that came to mind. It was defensive and stupid. She kept her eyes intent on the woman as she drew close to her. Arden surely wasn't winning any awards with her act. The evil woman didn't care at all for the wife of the Grand Moff. "It *was* a total disaster. It's on the HoloNet, you can rewatch all the action. My friend was badly injured. I could have been injured or killed. The situation is going to be just as tense on all of the other five planets. This *is* going to happen again." Sierra turned her head and looked at Arden's hand. She willed it away, hating how it felt.

"There is only one Sierra, my dear. You simply cannot be replaced," Arden said, as she circled around Sierra until she was behind her. "What you call a disaster I call a victory. I even briefly mentioned you in my report to His Majesty. Your personal involvement in capturing insurgents has gone a long way to restoring his faith in your husband," she explained, as she began to play dirty. "We will increase your security. No harm will come to you," she said, as she leaned her face closer to her ear. "And there are the charities to consider. These poor people need your money," she explained, before she moved over towards her display. A moment later she pressed a button and the image of a woman and her two young children appeared. "Do you know who this is?" she asked, but quickly raised her hand before she could answer. "No. Of course you don't. I was being rhetorical," she smirked, as she stepped away. "This is Evelyn Tamir. The widow of Bruce Tamir. An Alderaan Guard I believe you briefly encountered during your stay on Delaya," she said, with a smirk. "She and the people of Delaya need this money to rebuild. After all he did for you, can't you give a simple concert for his family?" she acted, faking being incensed at Sierra's apparently selfishness.

Arden had some very choice words to say to Sierra. She wasn't sure if Arden has rehearsed in the mirror too, or if she was simply that *talented*. Sierra sucked in a breath. At this point, she realized that Claudius needed help restoring his image in the eyes of His Majesty. Her eyes fell towards her boots. She tried to sever all feeling of caring to those who had been affected by the Empire. Sierra continued to resist the concerts until Arden pulled out an unexpected wildcard. Brue Tamir's widow and children. She stared at them, listening to Arden explain everything. Bruce Tamir had died for *her* sake. She would never forget what it was like to be covered in his blood, his lifeless body unnaturally still on top of hers. He died for her son, and that was exactly why the boy was to be named Bruce. Her heart fell down cliffs. She suddenly felt very terrible for having resisted the relief concerts. She bit her lower lip and began regaining composure. "I... I..." She lost her footing completely. "I have *my* family to think of too." She looked at the woman. "There cannot be a repeat of what happened on Corulag."

"Your family? You would have no family if not for that brave member of the Alderaan Guard," Arden said, as she powered down the monitor. "Just look at that alleged Mandalorian in sickbay. How many people have been hurt or died to protect you and your family?" she said, as she moved to sit back down at her desk to begin signing more death warrants. "Your lives don't belong to you. They belong to the Emperor. You took an oath," she said, as she ceased making eye contact and concentrated on her datapad. "Let me tell you something, honey. If you want to protect your family then crossing me is not the way to do it. In this oversector *I* am the real power ... your pathetic husband is just a polite face for the sappy locals," she reminded her, before raising her left hand and shooing her away, again without looking at her. "Let me know what you decide. I'm sure you'll make the right decision. You always were a clever girl. It says so in your file," she said, with a snicker, before pressing the button to kill a half dozen more.

Ouch. One, two verbal punches collided with the young ISB officer who already felt immensely guilty for El-Nay's injuries, as well as the fact that Bruce Tamir had sacrificed himself for her and her unborn child. A lot of people had gotten hurt for the sake of her family's protection. She thought of Marcus, Kerrie, El-Nay, and so on. The woman only continued to add citrus to Sierra's fresh wounds. She tensed. As badly as she wanted Arden to die, there was nothing that could be done. Crossing her *would* get someone killed...if not herself, then one of the members of her family. She took a step backwards, bringing her closer to the door. Sierra was angry and sad. She threw up her hands. "I think you know what I've decided. There's no way out of this." She abruptly ended their conversation there, feeling the need to get away from Arden's office. There was limited oxygen in the room. At that point, Sierra couldn't breathe anymore. She turned on her heel and departed into the corridor outside her office. She felt terrible. Five more times she'd be dangled in front of people who hated her and her husband. Would she survive? What of her son?

She needed to cool off before going back to her desk. Sierra headed towards the medical bay to check on El-Nay a final time. Her head hung low. Her shoulders shrunk. She imagined a life where it was possible to gather the family and hide somewhere.

Commander Kerrie Kiley had traveled from the Void to the Retributor after receiving word that El-Nay had been critically wounded while on some assignment for the Grand Moff's wife. As she arrived in sickbay she saw her long term partner unconscious in a bacta tank, attempting to recover from a severe blaster wound to her midsection. She was enraged that no one had consulted her about this, as she did not think El-Nay suited to this kind of work. She never would have allowed it, and if she had not then El-Nay would not be hurt. When Sierra arrived she wanted to yell, and she nearly started to, but she remembered her place. She was hurt. She was angry. She needed someone to blame and Sierra fit the bill. "What happened?!" was all she could ask, clearly exasperated. She was desperate for any information outside of the brief, heavily redacted file on the incident.

The third punch came when Sierra rounded the corner into the sickbay and found none other than Kerrie Kiley. She stopped walking suddenly. She would have had to be stupid to not see that Kerrie was angry...but that wasn't all she was. It was hard not to lash out at Kerrie after her meeting with Arden and the guilt that had filled her gut since El-Nay was shot. "I asked her to protect me while Zevrin forced me through these hellish concerts." Sierra gritted her teeth. "I trust El-Nay. I knew I couldn't ask you. Your absence in the Void would have only gotten everyone in trouble." Her voice cracked. "I...I'm sorry. This wasn't supposed to happen." Her head fell even lower than before. If Kerrie wanted to yell, then it was something she understood and would accept. "I will not involve her with the rest of my assignment."

"*You* asked her?" Kerrie said, repeating her words. She had assumed it was Zevrin's doing. She staggered backwards, so overwhelmed that she lost her ability to maintain her human shape. In an instant the attractive female human faded away, replaced with the grey reptile-like appearance of a Clawdite. She could not hear the rest of what Sierra was saying clearly, finally her back collided with El-Nay's tank and she began to slide slowly down until she was on the ground. "She's just a kid. A dumb kid who *thinks* she's a Mandalorian. She doesn't know the first thing about protecting someone. She doesn't know the first thing about anything," she said, as she lowered her head, staring painfully at the ground. "You could have asked me. I'm not afraid of Zevrin. I'm not afraid of being in trouble. I'm afraid of what happened happening..." she said, as she looked up at Sierra for the first time. She was crying, having been completely overwhelmed and pushed to her breaking point.

With a sinking feeling, Sierra watched Kerrie slid to the ground. Both of her hands came up to her face. An overwhelming feeling washed over her. There were five more concerts. El-Nay was seriously injured. Kerrie was pissed. She didn't intend on asking anyone for help ever again after being reminded of Bruce Tamir's sacrifice. Every word Kerrie spoke was painful. She couldn't stop feeling sorry for what had happened. As her hands dropped, she realized that Kerrie was crying. She stepped back uneasily. "I... I... I..." She imagined Arden watching the drama unfold, laughing at the constant misfortunes of her family. "I'm sorry, I'm *so* sorry. This won't happen again." She looked at the bacta tank, reminded of the concert she wanted to forget. Sierra couldn't face Kerrie. She tore away from the Clawdite in the opposite direction.

Inside her office, she disappeared into the refresher. She leaned over the sink and cried. It seemed like her tears were more and more frequent. She *hated* being so damn weak. She didn't want Claudius to see her like this anymore, fearing that he'd think she hated her life with him...or something of the likeness. As she looked up at her mirror, all she could see was Arden's smirk. It was the very same one the woman made when she knew she had won. Her fist clenched up tightly before it collided with the glass mirror, effectively shattering it and Arden's sinister smirk.

Claudius Rodney was just returning from yet another tactical briefing covering the situation on Corulag when he heard the sound of glass breaking. "Sierra?!" he called out anxiously, before bursting forth into the refresher. When he arrived he found her devastated in front of a broken mirror. "What ... what has happened?" he asked, as he reached for a towel to wrap around her bleeding hand. He was careful to tighten it around her hand to stop the bleeding. "Look what you've done to yourself. I need to get you to sickbay," he said to her, unaware of the spectacle that was going on there. He could not bare to see the wife, and the mother of his expectant son, like this.

As the pieces of the mirror fell to the counter and the ground, Sierra realized that this was as close as she'd ever come to killing Arden Zevrin. The pain in her hand didn't hit her infuriating mind until Claudius burst in. She looked at him with wide, teary eyes. It would have been beneficial for her to check his schedule before having a massive tantrum. Her knuckles were bloody and covered in shards of glass. "Shit." She had fucked up again. Her husband would have to see yet another raw moment from his wife. She had no idea how he kept it together so well. Sierra's mind quietly rejoined reality. Her other hand grasped his arm as he mentioned going to the sickbay. "No. We can't go there." She said without explaining herself. Instead, she crouched down and grabbed one of her many handy dandy first aid kids from area beneath the sink. Her hand stung and hurt badly. She set the kit on the counter but her good hand, fumbling, dropped it to the ground where its contents spilled out. "No..." She had no idea if her hormones were in overdrive or if she was just having a horrible day. Regardless, she starting crying hard without explaining herself to her husband yet. "T-That damn woman..."

Claudius knew Arden Zevrin would stop at nothing to torment him and his family. He had considered retirement, but deep down he knew the uniform was the only thing keeping him alive. No, he was stuck, and he knew it ... but that did not mean Sierra did not have to be stuck with him. "Should we consider starting your maternity leave early?" he asked her, as one suggestion came to mind. He did not understand why they could not go to sickbay, but he was not going to argue with her at a time like this. "I'm sure one of the Ithorian doctors could claim some complication and get you removed from duty on medical reasons," he said to her, as he did everything he could to apply pressure to her wounds and stop the flow of the blood.

She seriously thought about it. As long as she was on the Retributor, Arden was going to harass her repeatedly. It would become harder for her to handle the more hormonally charged she became. "N-No." She forced her other hand to be still so she could collect her supplies and relocate them from the glassy mess of the refresher towards the sitting room in his office. She felt terrible. Her hand ached uncontrollably. The wounds were deep. She simply didn't have the right supplies to fix it. "Can you summon someone up here to fix this?" She asked him desperately. She was avoiding the sickbay for reasons he would soon know. Wiping the tears from her eyes, she began to speak. "I can't leave you up here alone, Claudius. I should have known better to confront Zevrin today. I've been feeling so bad about El-Nay getting hurt. Then there was Kerrie in the sickbay..." She closed her eyes and attempted to calm herself down.

"I would feel a lot better knowing you and our child were safe, my love," Claudius told her, as he moved towards the comm system. "Medical team to the adjutant's office," he said, without providing any further details. He did not want this latest incident to become gossip amongst the crew, putting further strain on his position. "Shh," he said, as he moved back towards her, holding her in his arms as they awaited medical assistance. "El-Nay did her job. They'll fix her. Kerrie will get over whatever is going on because of El-Nay. And Zevrin, well she'll keep herself busy as long as we stay clear of her and don't interfere," he said to her, attempting to give quick solutions to the plague of problems they were facing. More than anything he just wanted his family safe, no matter what the price was.

She needed the closeness with him. Without a word, he reminded her that they were in this *together*, and that feeling guilty over having a bad day was just stupid. Sierra's head met with his shoulder. She didn't want to die. These concerts were so dangerous. She was realistically scared. Listening to him, Sierra lifted her head. "Zevrin won't let me out of the concerts, Claudius. She was messing with my head...talking about Bruce Tamir. She said that my involvement is helping His Majesty to regain his faith in you. His Majesty likes what she's doing. I cannot stop it." Nngh. She was hurting both physically and mentally. The medical team would soon arrive to take care of her. For now, she was left feeling idiotic for punching a wall. "Even if I went on an early maternity leave, she'd figure out a way to make those concerts happen...or make me suffer for not doing them."

"Bruce Tamir?!" Claudius exclaimed, as he had a momentary outburst of anger directed at Arden. "How does she come by such information? I swear, the woman knows *everything*," he said, before clenching his jaw. Suddenly he wanted to punch a mirror! "The Emperor likes results, but I do not believe he knows the true extent of the methodology she uses to get those results," he confessed, naively, as he still lived in a mental state that believed that the Emperor had saved the Republic from the Jedi. "We were fortunate that you emerged unscathed from *one* concert ... I don't see how you can do *five* more," he lamented, lowering his head, and tightening his grip on her. He would not let Zevrin destroy his family. She could destroy everything else in this Oversector, but not *that*.

"I have no idea!" Sierra exclaimed. It seemed that Arden had eyes and ears everywhere. Their conversation was briefly derailed by the appearance of the medical team. Sierra spoke very little to them while they quickly stopped the bleeding and drew the glass from her knuckles. Her hand was wrapped up tightly. No one said anything about what had happened. Her and Claudius needn't anymore whispers around the Retributor. She dismissed the medical team when all was said and done. The pain persisted, but she wasn't sure if Arden had inflicted it upon her or if it was from the mirror.

Sierra cuddled with her husband when she was sure that they were alone...or as alone as they could be here. "I don't see how either. She said she would increase security, but we're talking about Zevrin here. Increased security means nothing. The people are so angry right now. There's bound to be more problems." She clutched him tightly. "I promise you, I'm not going to let anything happen to me or our son. I don't care what happens. I'll keep us both safe." She looked up at him with a fierceness in her eyes. "We're not going to give Zevrin the pleasure of taking me out. I'll find out a way to become one massive thorn in her side."

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