Era of Rebellion - Navigation

Alice Bee and Christopher Levy.
One year after the Battle of Yavin (36:4:9) in the Alderaan system: Delaya (Leiliani: Medcenter and Sea Islands).
Grand Moff Claudius Rodney and Commander Sierra Rodney.

There was nothing grand about saving Marcus and Zara Rodney. It didn't feel good to see them again. Triumph was the last thing that Sierra Rodney felt. Her sanity was clinging to Claudius. She needed her husband very badly, for she had been deeply injured. Everything that had happened throughout the day looked like nothing compared to what Papius had done to her. She was a mess by the time she landed the shuttle at the medcenter. Her hands were shaking on the controls. She hadn't been able to stop crying since saying goodbye to her in-laws. At least Gaius wasn't at the medcenter to gloat over how sad she was. No, instead he was busy staining the bedsheets of her old bed while plotting to kill her husband. Sierra's tears were nearly blinding by the time she moved through the door and into her husband's suite. She tried to use the sleeve of her uniform to sweep them away, yet her eyes insisted they were not done. "C-Claudius!" She cried. Sierra had never cried like this in front of him. It was obvious that something had gone horribly wrong.

Claudius was up and about in his suite in the medcenter. He was feeling himself and dressed in his Imperial uniform with the hope it would inspire his nurses to move his discharge faster. Sierra would soon be here to pick him up and return him back to the sea islands, but when she arrived she was in tears and he knew something was wrong. "What's wrong?" he cried out to her, moving swiftly across the room until he arrived in front of her. He wrapped his arms around her tightly, bringing her in against him tightly. His lower hand was pressed against the small of her back, while his upper hand moved through her hair affectionately. "Please tell me..." he said quietly, fearing the worst. Whenever they got good news, bad news surely followed.

Her arms locked around him as tightly as she could manage. That was it. She wasn't going to let go of him. Claudius provided her with protection. Papius wouldn't have been able to do what he had done if her husband had been there. She couldn't let go of him. She was so scared that she was trembling. Her face was hidden away against his neck. "Claudius..." She choked. "Governor Arundel..." It was hard to put the experience into words when she hurt so bad. She pressed her face back into his neck. There, she cried hard. As she breathed in his scent and felt his warm, loving embrace, she was reminded that this was safety. She could tell him anything. Suddenly, she pulled her head back to look at him. "I went to see Papius," She sucked in a deep breath. "I had all the information on the Rebel group I discovered. I intended to use it to bargain for Zara and Marcus to be released." She told him all the things he already knew. Now she was into the part he *didn't* know. "He ... he..." She was trying to catch hold of her emotions.

"He demanded I take off my clothes to prove I wasn't recording him." She whimpered. "He cut away my underwear. He saw my... My..." Sierra grasped him by the shoulders. Her expression turned to sickness as she pushed him away quickly enough to vomit in a nearby garbage can. The tears came harder after that as she withdrew right back into his arms.

When Claudius first heard Sierra invoke the name of Governor Arundel he expected it to be bad, but when she went into detail his heart suddenly stopped beating. All of this color left his face, and his hands tightened around her, clinging to her for dear life. Before he could speak she was over the garbage can, causing him to rush to her side to hold her hair so it did not get soiled. "He did what?!" he asked her, completely enraged, as he welcomed her back into his arms. For years he had heard stories about Imperial officers doing things like this, but he never believed them. He wanted revenge, and as he held her dearly his mind began to focus on ways to deal with him. Surely something like this could not go on without him taking action, but he did not want Sierra to know this. Right now he wanted to focus on the healing.

Sierra had retreated into her hiding place. Inside Claudius' arms was the only place where she was capable of coming undone...and then being pieced back together. She wasn't thinking of how to get back at Papius. She was thinking about how she *never* wanted to see him again. It was disturbing to think that she had left her shredded undergarments in his office. Now, he could always remember their *special* moment. She cried and cried and cried. Somewhere in all of her despair, she remembered what she had witnessed earlier in Gaius' suite. She lifted her head. "We can't talk anymore here." She stuttered. "We have to return to the sea islands where no one can find us." Sierra wanted to tell her husband everything. Her thoughts were so far scattered. First she needed to secure her love. Then they could fix her. Then they could talk about everything. The only problem with leaving meant that she wouldn't be able to stay in his embrace. Right now, she needed it. She didn't think she could even stand without him.

"The sea islands?" Claudius repeated, hesitating, as he wanted to head directly to the garrison to assault the Governor. "Um..." he paused, as he was torn between comforting his wife and exacting revenge. He let out a sigh as he released his grasp on her, realizing that revenge could wait, and his comfort was needed now. "You're right. Let's get out of here. Paperwork be damned. They know where to find me," he smirked, as he led his wife from the medical suite. He hoped he would never return here. He brushed past the doctors and nurses, having no time for any of them at this moment. He slowly moved up the stairs that would lead to the landing platform on top of the medcenter. The stairs were a little more difficult than he anticipated, but with some patience he eventually made his way towards the top. As he opened the door he was presented with the sight of the Imperial Garrison in the distance. He glared across through the smog filled skies at the observation tower where the governor surely was. He was furious, but what sent him over the edge was the sound of mechanized AT-STs marching through the streets and TIE strikers soaring overhead. What had happened to his homeworld?

Relief washed over her tired, hysterical mind. If they left the medcenter, she didn't need to worry about Gaius and his spawn hurting them. Likewise, Papius wouldn't dare initiate contact with Claudius after putting his wife through such trauma. It was a group effort to actually get out of the medcenter. Sierra helping him with each step, Claudius aiding each step of hers. She hoped not to see the medcenter until happier times fell over the family. She wanted the next time they came back to be to celebrate life, not death.

At the top of the medcenter, the sight of the Garrison was enough to make Sierra whimper. She imagined Papius, smug and evil. For now, she turned her back on all the Imperial dwellings on their planet. She held Claudius' hand while they made their way up the ramp and into the shuttle Sierra sat down at the controls. She wiped away the tears that clouded her vision. "I couldn't live without you, Claudius." She looked behind her shoulder. He had brought back the smallest sense of sanity. He was husband of the century for so many reasons. After taking off, Sierra purposely took a different route so she wouldn't have to stare at the Imperial Garrison. She never wanted to see that terrible man ever again. She was going to burn her uniform and her boots to eliminate the articles of clothing she'd associate with that horrible occurrence. Sierra had yet to realize the worst part of it all. Sierra hadn't been recording. Papius *had*.

The trip to the sea islands was a quiet one, with Claudius barely able to think about anything but exacting revenge upon the Imperial Governor who had tortured his wife and militarized his planet. As he watched Sierra pilot their shuttle he admired how she was able to focus enough to operate the craft given all that had transpired. She was remarkable. As the sea islands came into view he reached across the control panel to place his hand reassuringly upon her. As they circled above on their landing approach a terrible sight came into view. Imperial Shoretroopers were on patrol, investigating the area near the build site. The reach of Governor Arundel extended even here.

Thoughts rolled through Sierra's head continuously. She, too, wanted revenge. She also never wanted to see Papius' face ever again. Claudius was her anchor. He kept her from being swept up in the storm that surrounded her. His hand truly was reassuring. Sierra managed a smile for him. No sooner had she begun to feel better did she start to feel a lot worse. Seeing the Imperial Shoretroopers was enough to give Sierra pause. Her hands lingered on the controls as she tried to decide between landing or flying away. "Damn that man," Sierra muttered under her breath. "They cannot be here." Sadness flipped to rage. She opted to land the ship smoothly into the sand. Upon landing, she rose and looked to Claudius. "We can make them go away, can't we?" Her hand clawed at her top. Her clothing was bothering her. She could smell Papius all over her like he was a skunk.

Claudius rose from his seat when the shuttle touched down, planning to confront the Shoretrooper Captain in a heated rage. It had been a long time since he had been under the thumb of another Imperial officer and he did not like it. "Perhaps ... perhaps you should wait here," he said, before moving towards the rear compartment of the shuttle. He took a moment to adjust his uniform to make sure everything was perfect before marching down the ramp onto the shoreline. In the distance he could see two of the Shoretroopers trying to drive off the sea cow, which only served to further enrage him. "You men there. Stop that!" he ordered, in his most proper and commanding tone, saved only for occasions like this. "Who is in charge?" he asked, as he looked over what seemed to be a platoon level deployment. Their large landing craft had crushed some of the shrubbery and their footprints were everywhere. Some were even on the construction site further delaying the droids. It was most unwelcome.

She could see how angry he was. Sierra couldn't imagine how unhappy and furious Claudius was over what Papius had done. Seeing the Shoretroopers served to make Sierra worry that her new worst enemy would show up on their islands. She was ready to make her way down the ramp and bleed her spleen all over the Shoretroopers when Claudius suggested another route. She sighed, nodding her head. "Perhaps I will. I've had enough Imperial dealings for one day." Instead, she watched him leave anxiously. It was terrible being under Papius' thumb. Despite what had happened, Sierra suspected that there was no way to retaliate. The best course would be to get Papius off of Delaya as soon as possible. He couldn't hurt her again if he wasn't there. The young Duchess lingered at the top of the ramp, becoming increasingly more angry at the Shoretroopers who were pestering the family pet and destroying the precious island's life. She noted that their future home wasn't free of Shoretroopers either. It seemed Papius was trying to invade every part of their lives...but not for long. She watched Claudius eagerly. He would deal with it. He would make them go away.

Claudius began screaming at the Shoretrooper Captain, throwing his hands about hysterically as he berated them and ordered them off the property. After a few tense moments the Shoretroopers assembled on the shoreline, bordered their transport, and headed away from the sea islands. A red faced Claudius began moving back towards the shuttle, doing his best to use breathing techniques to calm himself down. "There. That's taken care of," he said to Sierra, before offering his hand to help her down the ramp. "At last we are alone," he said to her, as he basked in the sunlight of what he planned to be their private abode and retreat from the world. In the distance a Viper probe droid briefly emerged from the water to transmit, before submerging back below the water. The privacy he felt they had was only an illusion.

Sierra watched it all while her heart swelled with pride for her love. Whatever magical combination of words (and actions) he had used instigated the desired effect. Seeing the Shoretroopers turn their backs to the islands gave Sierra a false sense of security and privacy. She was teary-eyed and smiling when he returned back to her. Upon taking his hand, she squeezed it. "Thank you, Claudius. You're my hero." She sniffled. While she wanted to suck in the sun, she had to deal with other things first.

She led them towards their tent. "I have to get out of these clothes," she sounded desperate. All essence of Papius needed to be washed away forever. She took Claudius with her into the bathroom where she began to quickly undress, shoving her clothing into the nearby garbage can. She had other uniforms and other boots which were not associated with Papius. Nude, Sierra crept back into her husband's arms. She embraced him tightly. She was okay. Everything was going to be okay...after she showered and stopped smelling like a certain lecherous Governor. "I... I don't think I can let go of you." She confessed.

"Then don't," Claudius said, as he too began the process of removing his Imperial uniform. He was not careful with it at all, simply discarding it in favor of swimwear. He hoped another round of hydrotherapy in the sea followed by relaxation would calm him enough to think more clearly about Governor Arundel and his actions against his wife and his people. He moved his arms behind her, sweeping up her off the ground and into his arms. He let out a soft groan as her added weight gain from the pregnancy caused a tinge of pain in his lower back. Nevertheless, he staggered forward with her until they were in the ocean. As he looked around he noticed the sea cow was nowhere to be scene. "I guess the Shoretroopers scared it away," he speculated, unaware the sea cow was investigating the Viper probe droid. "Probably for the best with all the construction," he said, before submerging himself in the water to cool off.

He was giving her exactly what she needed: him. The continuous closeness was so wonderful. She kissed along his jaw sweetly. She appreciated all of his efforts, knowing full well that she had begun to put on some additional weight thanks to their baby boy. The ocean water swept over them. It caused Sierra to feel instantly relieved. With it, the last physical reminders of Papius were gone. Sierra sighed. "It'll be back, I'm sure. That sea cow likes us too much to stay away." She couldn't see Betsy anywhere. She hoped that the sea cow had not been injured. If it had then someone would pay. Instead of obsessing over the cow, she dunked her head backwards into the water to soak her hair.

Sierra loved it here. The rest of the world seemed to be a million miles away. "I have so much to tell you," she started, continuing to remain close to him. "But not now...soon, later." When he resurfaced, she pressed her lips against his and kissed him hard. When she had finished, she nuzzled her nose against his. "You know that I love you more than anything in the galaxy, right? Even if it was that horrible woman that brought us together, I want you to know that I never considered manipulating you myself. Your rank, your family, it has never mattered to me. You could have been the lowest man on the totem pole and I'd still love you like I do now." She kissed the tip of his nose. "That man got under my skin today. He assumes things about us that aren't true."

The fact that Sierra was concealing information from him caused him to develop a Drusilla-like compulsion to know what was going on. Even if it was something as simple as a starfruit tort he felt like he *had* to know and he *had* to know now. As her lips connected with his he got a glint in his eye, looking towards her with wonderment and curiosity. "Yes. I know this, and I feel the same way," he said, as the conversation took a more serious tone after the kiss. "Well, when you assume you make an ass out of you and me," he said, speaking of the imbecilic Governor. "Perhaps I can make an appeal..." he said, but before he could take such a bold step he would have to reconnect with his command to develop some sense of what was going on under his authority. "Is that ... is that what you wanted to tell me?" he asked, as she kissed his nose, unable to contain his curiosity over her earlier knowledge tease.

Sierra laughed. Ah yes, she had many choice words to use to refer to the Governor as. She hated the man so much. It was becoming necessary that they get him to leave as soon as possible. If Sierra had to meet with him *alone* again, there was no telling what would happen. "I don't know. I want to kick him in ... many, many places for what he did. I also don't want our planet to suffer more while we try to get revenge. It's a sticky situation." At least Zara had broken the man's nose and she had been there to witness it.

Her husband's curiosity caused her to laugh. "Goodness, no. You know how the day ended, with Governor Pervert. Marcus and Zara were freed, by the way. You don't know about the beginning part of the day. I decided to bug Gaius' living quarters." Her mind rolled back to a thousand years ago. At that time, she witnessed Gaius and his *daughter* plotting her husband's death, kissing each other like lovers. A sickened expression appeared on her face. "Let's get out of the water. You should be seated and far away from danger when I tell you what I'm about to tell you. Prepare yourself for the worse...because it's even worse than that." Grasping his hands, Sierra made her way back towards the beach. Where did she start? "Has Gaius ever mentioned having a daughter?" Square one.

Claudius allowed Sierra to lead him out of the water onto the sand that threatened to burn the soles of his feet. "Hot!" he cried out before coming to a rest on the beach blanket. "Gaius?" he asked, confused about why they were talking about him of all people. "A daughter? No. I don't think so," he said, as he moved to sit down on the blanket and catch his breath after exerting himself. "He only just married a short time ago," he commented, bringing his hand up to the back of his head to rub it forcefully. "Why? Why do you ask?" he pressed her, wondering where this all was going. For an important man he certainly enjoyed his fair share of family gossip.

Eee! The sand was so hot! Sierra quickly made it to the blanket where she sat cross-legged. Boy, did she ever have a juicy scoop of gossip for him! "He must not be happily married.." She commented, wishing she could erase the image of them kissing from her mind. "Remember when I told you about the girl attacking you and how I was able to yank out some of her hair? DNA confirmed her to be a Rodney. She was there with Gaius in his room. She is *his* daughter. There was no sign of his wife. They returned home after I had placed the device. I heard them scheming against us. It was Gaius' daughter who shot the Emperor's advisor. I'm certain it was she who killed your father. They had a knife. They spoke of attempting to kill you again soon." Her eyebrows remained furrowed. There was more.

Claudius' face froze as he processed the information. The information that Sierra had just revealed was worthy of a HoloNet drama. "Gaius has a daughter? And she was the one who poisoned your shampoo?" he asked her, as he lowered his head between his knees and tried desperately to calculate his next move. "He is responsible for our security. If he is truly behind it that who can we turn to?" he asked, looking up at her with his brown eyes for any source of support. "I would have him arrested, but he is the person who arrests people!" he said, nearly laughing at the absurdity of it all. "And we cannot reveal this to the Governor, because he would only use it as further justification to take control of even palace security," he said, before rolling over onto his side. Nowhere seemed safe right now.

She nodded, "I'm sure. They were responsible for the bomb at Jelena's funeral." The list of the crimes Gaius and his daughter had committed was lengthy. Sierra, once again, felt the need for revenge. She inched closer to him. Her hands ran through his hair softly. She had to laugh with him. It really was insanity, wasn't it? It all made perfect sense at the same time. The medcenter surveillance showed no proof of the girl ever being there, despite Sierra seeing her with her own two eyes. "I've been thinking about what the next best step is. The evidence against Gaius and his daughter will grow by the day. You could strip him of his post for sedating me in the medcenter. Take his power away, make him furious, and catch him in the act while he's too stupid to be careful. The Governor may be here, but you are still the Duke." Sierra scooted close to him from behind. Her small hands started to massage his back. "We need to head back to the castle briefly to bug our old room. There's more than the appropriate amount of affection happening between those two. When I escaped, they were headed to utilize our bed." And there was the second scoop of family gossip for the day!

"Our bed? We'll have to burn it," Claudius said, as horrible images danced through his brain, forever traumatizing him. "Bugging rooms, eh? Spoken like a true ISB Commander," he said, with a teasing wink, but he had to admit it was a very sound strategy. "And you know how to do this?" he asked her, not entirely sure if he wanted the answer. There was nothing he hated more than the ISB, other than the new Governor of course. The massage was much needed, particularly at a time like this, and every motion of her hands served to wipe away the difficulties of life. "I never thought the day would com when we'd be safer and have more privacy aboard the Dreadnaught," he mused, rolling his eyes as he further considered their plight.

"And spread the ashes over the sea." Her nose twitched behind him. It was odd at a level she had never seen before. She scooted closer to him. Her swollen stomach pressed against his lower back while she paid specific attention to every knot in his back. Every day was more complicated than the last. If she could give him five minutes of peace and relaxation, she'd do anything. "Heyyy! You knew what you were in for when you married me!" She laughed. "Ah, you know how it is. I was forced to record all of my patients therapy sessions. If someone was too far gone then they simply disappeared." She sighed, hating to think of the things she had a hand in. "Bugging Gaius' room was the first time I'd done it since then. I don't like being tricky like that. I feel like there's no other choice at this point. I want to keep you safe."

It was odd: Claudius was *right*. Arden Zevrin seemed like a small enemy now. She wondered what they should do. Running away had never seemed better. "Should we... Should we go back? If Gaius strives to be Duke so much, you could appoint him Regent and allow him to deal with the Governor." She looked towards the construction of their home. "It's hard to decide what's best for our family. If we could get Papius to leave, everything would be better. Instead, he's making our people feel hostile towards the Empire. We were working to make this a smooth transition..." Sierra suddenly remembered the bomb that Papius had dropped while tormenting her. Her hands stopped for a brief moment. "There's one more thing..."

Claudius arched an eyebrow silently as she discussed her controversial patients disappearing ... such was the nature of the ISB. The decision to go back would not be an easy one. The Emperor had made it clear he preferred Arden Zevrin's strategy for dealing with the Rebellion, which was counterintuitive to everything he believed as a diplomat. "Truthfully I never intended to stay this long," he shared with her, as he broke eye contact, lost in contemplative thought. "...but spending time with you here prevented me from ever wanting to go back," he continued, feeling quite guilty that he had abandoned his duties. "I would love nothing more than to rid this planet of Governor Arundel. The question is whether to undermine him and cause him to fail, or aide him and cause him to get promoted..." he wondered, bringing his hand up to stroke his jowls. "What? What more?" he asked her, tilting his head to look her in the eyes again. He could not imagine what more there was to come.

Sierra clutched him close. "You're not the only one feeling like that. While my allegiance towards the Empire still exists, I was ignorant to the true workings of the ISB when I joined them. It's been relieving to space myself from all of that. I've been *happy* here with you." She didn't want to abandon their new home and the life they were created on Delaya. "Let's undermine him." Sierra nearly growled. She wanted to see Papius suffer for stripping her nude. No one had ever humiliated her so badly in her life. Retribution could make it right. Sierra lifted her head to look at him. Her hands guided him to roll over and face her. She closed her eyes, shaking while recalling the terrible moment. When she opened them, she began to speak. "Once he had me undressed ... he said... 'If all women from Alderaan looked like you, it was a pity *we* destroyed it.'" Sierra's lower lip quivered. All the details of that meeting with Papius would haunt her until she numbed herself to it. She wiped tears from her eyes. "H-He said no more about it. It seemed like an accidental slip."

"All right. Then we shall stay and be a thorn in this Governor's side," Claudius vowed, as he took her hand into his own and clenched it. However, the conversation soon took a decidedly darker turn that he could not have possibly imagined. "No! That's not true! That's impossible!" he said, as he looked at her in disbelief. "The Rebels were responsible. Clearly he was saying that simply to provoke you and get an emotional response," he said to her, as he lowered his head in shame. Jelena believed the Empire was responsible, as did a number of his people, but he refused to believe the Emperor was capable of such an action. After that he grew silent, cold, and withdrawn. So much had happened ... more than he was prepared for.

It made sense. Papius had exposed her both physically and emotionally. He made her feel terrible, then he used his words as the most effective kind of weapon. It had worked. It really, really had. She watched him lower his head and withdraw into his shell...and she didn't like it. Times had been hard, but they had survived every day as a joint effort. It was her turn to swoop in and take him away from the darkness. Her hands cupped his cheeks. She looked at him, treasuring the man she had almost lost a week ago. "Claudius," she spoke softly. "Come with me." In her bright, blue eyes there was determination. Papius couldn't drown out the flame that burned within her.

She gave him no choices. The blonde haired teenager rose. She took both of his hands and pulled until he was on his feet. Sierra led him back to the tent, where their privacy was undeniable. Finally, she stopped dragging him around once she had made it to the bathroom. Why? Because baths did wonders for them. Refusing to take no for an answer, she undressed him, then herself, and when the bath was full with a combination of water and bubbles, she led him into the sudsy water. Sierra trapped him by settling in his lap as opposed to all the other space in the tub. She stared at him with admiration and love. "You, sir, are going to spend the rest of the day *relaxing*. Just turn it off. All of our worries can be saved for tomorrow. No one will bother us here." And if they did, it would be Sierra who screamed at whoever this time around. She took his hands, placing them upon her curved hips. "I'm sorry I even suggested going back. Despite all that's happened...that's happening...I still love our life here. I appreciate everything you've built up for us. Think about it, our home is already over halfway complete. In a few months time, we will be *living* there. I guarantee that everything will be taken care of before then. We'll get rid of Papius one way or another. Delaya will recover. While there were so many bad parts about today, there were good ones too. I met with some people to discuss options for cleaning up the city's pollution. You left the hospital. You *recovered*." She touched his hair softly. "We're unstoppable when we're together. You should hold your head high, my love. You are an incredible person."

Claudius was still shocked by Sierra's information concerning Papius and the destruction of Alderaan when she began to lead him away from the beach blanket. He was in no condition to resist and dutifully followed her, as if he was a pet being guided by a leash. Much to the delight and confusion of the Delayan sea cow the Viper probe droid briefly raised out of the water to monitor them again, transmit the data, and disappear beneath the waves. "Is that an official directive from the ISB? Will I disappear if I don't relax?" he asked, playfully, "Don't apologize," he said to her, as his hand moved to brush the side of her face. "Thank you for all of your support," he said to her, as he settled into the tent, with her hands running over him. "You're not so bad yourself," he told her, as he raised his head up and placed a tender, loving kiss upon her face. "I love you," he pledged to her, as the kiss broke. The sea islands were a wonderful destination, but Sierra's presence made it paradise.

Sierra's nose twitched as she began to laugh. "As a matter of fact, you will! I will see to it that you are held captive here until you behave." A smile crept up her lips. Her heart ached so much for him. The rollercoaster that they rode together only made her appreciate and love him more. He was always there, *always* standing at her side. "Thank you for all of your support," she repeated, knowing full well that she would be a weak, sad nothing without him. They shared a kiss that made everything seem a lot better. "I love you. For now. For forever." She cupped his head in her hands. After an impossible day, Sierra found herself feeling good. Claudius made that possible. She would *never* let him fall into depression or become entirely overwhelmed by the day to day happenings.

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