Zevrin was seated in the conference room aboard the
Executor-class Star Dreadnaught Retributor. As the
Chiss Lieutenant prattled on and on she found it
incredibly difficult to keep her eyes open. Finally
she gave in and closed her eyes ... for a moment at
first ... and then longer. It did not take long, but
eventually she did doze off and fall asleep. A
moment later she began to snore, obnoxiously
interrupting the meeting and insulting the
Lieutenant. She did not care as she had little
concern for others and least of all the aliens the
Grand Moff seemed to collect. She, like many in the
Empire, believed in a xenophobic human first policy
as a result of so many alien species supporting the
Confederacy in the last war. Her mouth hung
awkwardly open as she continued to sleep, her
snoring growing so loud and intrusive that the
Lieutenant reluctantly ceased her briefing.
emotionless tone of Lieutenant Meham'ohorovi'cloca
was putting everyone in the conference room to
sleep. Sierra Rodney was attempting to focus on
other things to keep herself awake, like the way her
growing fetus kept kicking like he was suffering
from the Chiss' voice as well. Even Bruce's
developing ears rejected it. She thought about her
husband's paternity leave, which they were supposed
to settle with Zevrin. Before saying a word to the
woman, she was already angry. She suspected that
Arden would grant him with no time for his family.
It was when she began to snore that Sierra lifted
herself from her thoughts. She looked towards the
woman, who was sawing logs worse than anyone else
she had ever heard. What an unflattering mess. Even
her mouth was wide open. She saw a small, winged
insect land on the tip of her nose. It crept down
her face, closer and closer to her mouth. Suddenly,
Sierra couldn't look away. She was mentally
persuading the little bug to jump into Arden's
mouth. *Do it! Do it!* She willed the tiny-brained
insect. It was the most action anyone had seen at
one of the Chiss' tactical meetings.
his hand to dismiss Meham'ohorovi'cloca and the
other officers, who quietly departed the conference
room. Before long it was just Claudius, Sierra, and
Arden left in the room. His annoyance with Colonel
Zevrin knew no bounds, but he could not fault her
for falling asleep during the briefing. Even he
found himself dozing off from time to time, but
never to the point where he actually fell asleep.
"Ahem. Colonel," he said, but there was no reaction.
His eyes looked towards Sierra, wondering what he
should do. He knew that Sierra wanted to confront
Zevrin about the leave, but he was not sure this was
the right moment. He rose from his seat and moved
around the table until he neared the Colonel.
Finally, he reached down, grabbed her by the
shoulder and gave her a good shake. He was certain
that Sierra would be jealous that he got to rough
her up a bit, but it was better this way.
Execute them!" Colonel Zevrin said, as she awoken
when shaken by the Grand Moff. She blinked several
times until her vision came back to her, and to her
surprise everyone else had departed the conference
other than the Governor and his wife. "Oh dear. Did
I miss the last of her briefing? Oh what a shame,"
she said, sarcastically, as she rolled her eyes.
"There is one thing I wished to speak to you about,"
she said, before reaching over to pour herself a
glass of water. Her mouth had become very dry while
she was sleeping. "As you know," she began, before
clearing her throat and taking a sip of the water
that had now settled to room temperature. "...Chandrila
is the home of the treasonous Senator Mon Mothma ...
architect of this Rebellion," she said, as her eyes
scanned then, to make sure they were paying
attention. "It is not enough that she be punished
for her actions. Her people must be punished to send
a message to anyone in authority who dare defy His
Majesty," she said, her voice growing increasingly
distempered as she spoke on the subject. "Therefore
I ... or rather *you* ... are going to order random
executions. These reprisals are essential," she
instructed him, before looking at Sierra. "You
getting all this, or am I going too fast?" she
asked, with a smirk, before finishing her glass of
The bug flew
away before it could enter the woman's mouth. It
probably stunk anyway, Sierra assumed. The room
cleared until only three people remained. Sierra,
who was seated with one leg crossed over the other.
She had been taking notes on her datapad to keep
herself engaged enough that she didn't fall asleep.
Though she had never passed out during a meeting,
she left needing a nap every time. Her eyes fell
back on Arden, who didn't budge. She looked at
Claudius, making a face and shrugging her shoulders.
If it was up to her, she would have pulled Arden's
seat out from underneath her. She was itching to get
up, but it was her love who rose first. She
snickered and suppressed her giggles as he awoke the
evil woman by shaking her. She didn't feel *too*
jealous. Months ago, Sierra had gotten to stab the
woman. That felt pretty good.
awoke, Arden was back to her villainous ways.
Sierra's face went serious and she sat up. Her
eyebrows arched...*she* wanted to talk about
something? Well, that was never a good thing. She
jotted down notes while Colonel Zevrin laid out her
plans for Chandrila; executions, executions, and
more executions. While she understood that Mon
Mothma was involved deeply with the Rebellion, she
didn't think killing innocent people was the right
route to take. What she had learned while Arden
Zevrin ran rampant was that the Emperor *liked* her
cruel ways. She looked at Claudius, hating to think
of the trail of blood that ran from his name. In a
quick fit of anger, Sierra fancied the idea of
running away from it all. In reality, you couldn't
hide from the Empire. Her head snapped back towards
Arden. "No. I've got it all." She said coldly. There
was no option here. Claudius *had* to do it.
out a frustrated sigh when he heard the latest in a
series of war crimes that the ISB would carry out in
his name. He turned his back to Arden, lowering his
head in silent defeat. He remained in this position
for several moments before raising his head and
locking his eyes on Sierra for support. He looked at
her, nodding his head, and trying to rally his
courage simply by looking at her. "There is one
thing, Colonel," he began, his voice sounding weak
and trembling at first ... hardly that of an
Imperial Grand Moff. He turned to face her, puffed
out his chest, and attempted to be more confident.
"I will be needing paternity leave when Sierra gives
birth to our son," he informed her, maintaining a
steely gaze. He would not take no for an answer.
rich," Arden shot back, with a smirk, as she laughed
slightly at the old man. "Paternity leave? Are you
the one giving birth?" she asked, before pouring
herself a second glass of water. "Truthfully I
wouldn't be surprised, as between the two of you I'd
figure you to be the one with a vagina," she quickly
shot at him, before taking a sip of water. It was
then that an idea dawned upon her, as her eyes shot
over towards Sierra. "On the other hand it's not
like you're here even when you're here," she said,
before placing her glass of water down and then
rising from the table. "Before I allow this, you're
going to have to do something for me," she
continued, but she was speaking to Sierra and not
Claudius. "You will travel to Delaya and give a
command performance for Governor Arundel, to show
your unwavering support for the Imperialization of
Delaya," she explained, as she circled around the
table until she came to a stop in front of Sierra.
"Do this and your husband can be there for you. Fair
deal. Even if your dimwitted Squib 'daughter' would
agree," she sneered, making it personal.
From what felt
like miles upon miles away, Sierra offered her love
and support. The professional boundaries that their
work relationship put on them were, at times,
difficult. Their eyes met. She tried to show him
that she was upset too, and absolutely, completely
there for him. Seeing him looking defeated struck a
chord inside of her. Each time Arden came out on
top, Sierra grew a step closer to killing the woman.
She offered him her courage. The sooner they did
this, the sooner they could leave the meeting and
decompress privately in Claudius' office. He did a
good job with his delivery. She felt sure that this
was nearly over. After all, Claudius had scratched
her back, it was time for her to return a favor. As
always, with Zevrin, things were never so easy.
awoke the animal inside of Sierra. Slowly, she
brought her other boot the the ground. Even she was
puffing herself up, readying for attack at this
point. She felt bitter each time the woman attempted
to emasculate her husband. "It's common law for a
man to take time off." Sierra started in. "This is
what he is entitled to." Suddenly, she was in the
spotlight. Arden's eyes at found her. She followed
the woman throughout the room. Sierra didn't like
where all this was going. Doing things for Arden was
never pleasant...like her concerts. The woman laid
out her stipulation: go to Delaya, play for Papius,
and then Claudius would have time with his son
without work. Sierra's eyes remained on Arden, but,
on the inside, she was not happy. Papius Arundel had
stripped her. He humiliated her...not to mention all
the things he'd done with her belongings inside of
the castle. If she could freeze the moment, she
would have screamed and cried all at the same time.
The salt in her wounds was that low-blow insult to
Ewwiekewwieikkie. She internalized, clinging onto
her powerful exterior. Arden Zevrin was a bully.
Bullies liked seeing their prey suffer. She rose
from her seat. "I'll do it. I expect to see this
deal in writing to make sure you do good on your
word." Sierra didn't look at Claudius. She had to
stay calm. She had to stop herself from freaking
her hand up to her chest quickly, staggering
backwards, and acting as if she was in great pain.
"You mean ... you mean you don't trust me?" she
asked Sierra, as her face suddenly grew incredibly
sad. "I'm hurt," she said, before moving to take her
seat, lowering her head so far down that her chin
touched her chest. "Claudius what a wife you have,"
she said, keeping her head lowered so that neither
of them could see the smirk upon her face. "Oh fine.
You can have your precious document," she said,
raising her head and looking towards Sierra.
"Sometimes I forget you're in the bureau. Perhaps I
should have sent an accountant or a pastry chef to
spy on Claudius," she said, with a sharp dig, that
perhaps she ought not have to made.
"No. It's out
of the question," Claudius said angrily, as he
looked from Sierra towards Arden. "I do not want her
to travel to Delaya. Governor Arundel is a monster,"
he explained to Arden, as if she did not already
know. He moved to his wife, clutching her dearly,
but before he could get to her she had agreed to do
it. "Are you sure this is wise?" he asked her, as
his attention shifted from Arden back to Sierra.
"You know what he's done. You know what he's capable
of," he said, as he turned his back to Arden, coming
in between the two women. "You know that the
Emperor's Advisor said I can't interfere in Delayan
affairs anymore..." he said to her, lowering his
head, and sighing with exasperation.
The blood was
beginning to run out of Sierra's face. Arden was
setting her up for something terrible. Claudius
couldn't come rescue her this time. The room was
suddenly much hotter than it had been a few minutes
ago. Sierra needed to escape it. Sweat was rolling
down the back of her neck. She was suddenly so
lightheaded that she needed to grasp her chair to
remain standing. "By tomorrow morning." Sierra
commented. Her eyes narrowed. Arden had made many
mistakes in sending her to Claudius, for it would be
Sierra who took her down in time ... in time.
She looked at
Claudius. Everything he said was true; Governor
Arundel was a horrible, terrible monster. Her body
leaned into his. It seemed that it was *she* who
required his support now. In front of Arden, Sierra
had to remain calm. "I'm sure." Her eyes told him
otherwise. Her arm wrapped around his. Her skin was
cold and clammy. "Tomorrow morning, Colonel." Sierra
restated, deciding to close the makeshift meeting
herself by directing her husband to the door.
Governor Arundel was the last person she wanted to
see. She would never forget the feeling of standing
in his office trying to cover her most private
regions, the parts of her which she only shared with
her husband. Sierra didn't stop moving forward until
they had turned the corridor from the meeting room.
"Stop, stop." She said, needing a moment to stop
feeling so sick. She ran her free hand over her
face. "I cannot believe how evil that woman is. The
things she does in your name..." She sounded so
not get out of the room fast enough. He simply could
not breath in there any longer. He had intended to
save Sierra, but in fact it was she who had saved
him. "I fear there is more going on here than we're
aware," he confessed to her, as he clutched her for
dear life in the corridor. "What is her connection
to Governor Arundel? Why would she care whether you
performed on Delya or not?" he asked her, as he felt
a pain beginning in the side of his head that slowly
began to grow until it was as large as the massive
ship. "I still wish you weren't going, but there's
no sense in me trying to stop you," he said, as he
moved his face to side of hers, placing a gentle
kiss upon her cheek. He was fearful for what was to
She closed her
eyes to stop spinning. All she could see inside her
eyelids was Papius' terrible face. "I'm certain
there is. There *always* is." She opened her eyes,
tilting her chin upward to look at him. All of his
questions were good ones and reasons to worry. "I...
I need to find out what their connection is before I
go, otherwise I fear what I'm going to walk into."
All she wanted was for Arden and Papius to
disappear. She hated both of them so much. She held
him. "I don't want to go either...but there's simply
no other way. She isn't going to give us what we
want without making sacrifices. I want you and Bruce
to have the best kind of start." She explained as
tears began to fall from her eyes uncontrollably.
Sierra was still thinking about Papius. Though she
was clothed in the Retributor, she felt nude in the
Delaya Imperial garrison.
lowered his head, wishing he had a more nefarious
mind so that he could better understand the plots
and plans of those around him. "Are you going to
take El-Nay with you?" he asked, unable to believe
he had said those words even as he was saying them.
"I wish I could go with you, but the Emperor's
advisor made it very clear that he would not
tolerate my intervening in Delayan affairs again,"
he said, wishing he could be more of a man at this
point in time. "Will you visit Marcus and Zara?" he
asked, as he wondered if they could be of any use in
dealing this. However, he did not voice his concerns
as they had their newborns to care for. As his
family grew he felt the danger and threats against
them grew also.
Her small hands wiped the tears away as more came to
replace them. Her head nodded. "Y-yeah." El-Nay had
to come, for El-Nay's unwavering loyalty made her
the only trustworthy bodyguard for Sierra. She
wanted Claudius to come too. When the concert
finished, she'd be able to be with him instantly.
Instead, she'd have to endure a long trip back to
Esseles before finding her relief. She understood
the situation, and she didn't even bring it up. He
knew she always wanted him by her side. There was no
question about it. "I will. I think it'll be most
safe if I stay with them while I'm in Delaya.
Hopefully Governor Arundell won't make a surprise
visit to the castle." She turned away from him,
staring out a viewport in the corridor. "The sooner
this is over with the better. I've still got all
these concerts..." She said, sounding stressed. Her
shoulders fell. There was no winning.
next to his wife as he, too, looked out the
viewport. He came up behind her, wrapping his arms
tightly around her, and drawing her body painfully
close to his. "I love you. I am sorry you have
become a pawn used by those who wish to control me,"
he said to her, as he looked over her shoulder at
their reflection in the viewport. "Don't be gone too
long. Every moment you're away feels like an
eternity. The pain of your absence is too much to be
bare," he confessed to her, before leaning forward,
turning his head and placing a kiss upon her neck.
He did not want her to go, and he desperately wished
he could go with her. He never wanted her out of his
sight again. He did not know how, but one day he was
sure he would make Zevrin pay for this.
clasped his. They were close, close in the way she
loved most. Her back was pressed into his chest.
Slowly, sanity crept back into her upset mind. A
single concert would earn them the kind of memories
they would both cherish for the rest of their lives.
In Sierra's mind, that made it all worth it. "I love
you." She turned her head to the side. "No, no, no.
You *never* have to be sorry for that. I came to you
as a pawn, it simply turned out better than either
one of us expected. I'm sorry things like this
happens. I wish I could make all of your enemies
disappear." She wanted to protect him from the
galaxy's evils. Her hands squeezed his. Her heart
ached, reminded by his words that, once again, they
would find space between one another. She liked the
consistency of always having him near. At work, he
was never far. At home, it was very much so the
same. Frankly, Claudius had spoiled his young wife.
"I promise I'll only be gone as long as necessary. I
feel the pain too. Life simply isn't right without
you, Claudius. I've become so codependent on you."
She slowly turned in his arms. Facing him, her hands
clasped on his face just before she kissed him. Only
together could they be truly whole.
"Do you have
to leave quite so soon?" Claudius asked her, with
some sadness in his face as their kiss broke. "Let's
go home. Get me off this damn ship," he asked of
her, before attempting to lead her away towards the
turbolift that would lead them to the flightdeck. He
had worked so hard to rise through the ranks to
command a vessel like this only to have it stolen
out from under him by that fiendish Colonel Zevrin.
He used to love being in space, but now he could not
stand to be aboard the ship. Part of him considered
abandoning the mighty vessel to her and returning to
his smaller Imperial-class Star Destroyer. Even a
cruiser would be preferable if it meant being out
from under Zevrin. "If he does anything I swear I'll
bring the entire fleet, regardless of what the
Emperor's advisor said," he pledged to her
foolishly. He would not allow the Governor to harm
her ever again.
leave when I damn well please!" Sierra said. Arden
could only control her so much, after all. She
released him from her grasp. Nothing sounded better
than going home at the moment. "Yes, Governor." She
flashed him a little smile, leading him away from
the ship that had become a gigantic pain in the
rear. As they rode the turbolift to the flightdeck,
Sierra thought about Arden. How could she get back
at the woman? She had ran rampant in their lives for
so long. The problem with Arden was that when going
against her, you had to be sure you were going to
win. Sierra couldn't suffer a loss at Arden's hands.
Shaking the thoughts from her head, she listened to
his pledge. It was foolish, but foolish was an
aspect of love. "Claudius.." She weaved her fingers
in between his. They were headed home. Upkeep on
their professional relationship wasn't on her mind
anymore. "If that man knows what's best for him, he
won't pull anything." There was a growl in her
words. Regardless, she made her way towards the Kwai
as soon as the turbolift's doors open. She sat
before the controls. Her fingers were shaking.
Governor Arundell was a terrible man. She expected
him to do something. "Let's go home. We can all
smell like banthas there." At least Dru didn't seem
quite so angry after the Max Rebo concert.