Era of Rebellion - Navigation

Alice Bee and Christopher Levy.
One year after the Battle of Yavin (36:2:28) in the Alderaan system: Delaya (Marcus Rodney's chalet) and Kwai and in the Essesia system: Retributor.
Grand Moff Claudius Rodney, Lord Marcus Rodney, Commander Sierra Rodney, Lady Zara Rodney, and Doctor Pilaq Tohan.

It had not been an easy task to hack into the mainframe of the Ringali Shell's computers. In fact, it had taken days of work with Zara feeling more frustrated by the second. She had lost at least a clump of her hair while she yanked and pulled on it impatiently. As of now, she was seated at the Holonet portal in the first floor of the chalet where she had set up shop. There were all kinds of buzzing, beeping devices around her. Clearly the Imperials invested in a damn good security system. Her fingers typed away at a virtual keyboard. Her blue eyes were so focused on the screens in front of her that they were beginning to hurt. She had become a teeny, tiny bit obsessed with this challenge.

And then, it happened.

Zara Rodney did it.

Suddenly, information soared past her screens. "*Yes*!" She yelled triumphantly. "I did it!!!" She popped out of her seat so quickly that she nearly spilled the bowl of Auntie Mae's ice cream that she had been eating. After engaging in a short, embarrassing victory dance, she seated herself once more. "Lalalalalala..." She sung, opening up random files. "Marcus! We're in!" She called out, in case he hadn't witnessed her being silly. She had no idea where to start...and then she did. ISB files. Those people were evil scum. Zara adjusted herself in her seat. She had spent way too much time on this. Her strongest suspicion was that there were Imperial connections in all of the hell her family had endured. Just thinking about it riled her up to the point where her cheeks turned red.

Marcus was sitting at the HoloNet terminal reviewing all of the bounties that impending fatherhood had prevented him from taking. It was a hard life change sitting around the chalet, watching The Real Huttwives of Nal Hutta, and fending off the sea monster. When he heard Zara scream excitement crept over his eyes and he lept from his chair. He moved quickly towards her to look at her screen to see what all of the excitement was about. When he saw that the files were marked ISB a shiver immediately ran down his spine. "I hope this doesn't get back to them," he said to Zara, genuinely concerned by her slicing into the ISB's files. "Let's get to the juicy stuff," he said, as he positioned himself next to her, deciding that if they were going to invoke the rage of the ISB that it had better be worth it.

She understood. Their double lives were exciting and wild. Admittedly, it was nice to be slicing again. She had considered leaving a lovely little virus for the Imperials to discover, but opted to keep as low of a profile as she could. She didn't want anyone to come knocking down their door (or taking out their ceiling). She glanced up towards her husband. "I hope so too. I'm being clean about my slicing, if that makes sense. They don't know I'm here right now. The juicy stuff. Hmmmm... Does your brother have any 'friends' in the ISB?" Meaning enemies. However, she did take a moment to hunt down Sierra's personal folders. She quickly glanced through them. Everything was clean on her. From her last annual review, it looked like she wasn't half bad at being a psychologist and that she didn't dabble in anything that resulted in the death of Jelena. She proceeded through other files. "I wish I could just search 'juicy stuff' and get a result. The ISB is so busy. Look at all of these!" She said, pointing to screen. Through all of her rapid clicking, she suddenly opened up a video feed of Claudius' office, only what showed up on the video was highly inappropriate. As soon as Zara's mind registered what was happening, she closed the video immediately. "*Woah*!! *What the what*! What was *that*?!" She looked at some additional information on the video. A single name stood out. "Arden Zevrin..." She read.

The brief image of Claudius and Sierra getting it on was enough to blind him. He brought his hand up over his eyes, gagging, as he nearly threw up right then and there. "Close it! Close it! Close it!" he said in a panic, nearly freaking out over the trauma. "Is this ... is this what people experienced when they saw *our* recording?" he asked her, still keeping his hand in front of his eyes. "Don't ever show me that again," he scolded her, before he swung himself around so that his back was facing the screen. It was only then that he unshielded his eyes and took several deep breaths to regain his composure. "Arden Zevrin. I've heard of her. Causes my brother nothing but trouble," he explained, as all of the color left his face and he began to feel quite nauseous. "I'm going to get a glass of water. You want one?" he asked, as he rose from the chair and began to move towards the kitchen to find something that would settle his stomach. Family was not meant to see one another in such a way. It would be very difficult not to react the next time he saw Claudius and Sierra.

"Wahhhh! I'm scared to open the rest of these!" What weird, sadistic pervert was recording Claudius and Sierra ... doing things?! "I.. I don't know if it was quite the same... People are *still* selling sexy, nudey pillow friends of us." And yes, it still pissed her off. "If we ever really need the money, it's nice to know that we can count on our sex." Zara laughed. She never wanted to think about the thing she saw ever again. However, if they had seen it, that meant someone else had. She looked at the back of his head. "Come back! Don't make me do this alone! What if there's another one!?" She whined, pawing at his top. "Um, yes please. Thanks, lovey." She didn't want to see her in-laws every again. She was sure that single image would scar her for the rest of her life. She felt really bad for Marcus, but, you know, she understood. Her time with Luna and her fiance had been traumatizing enough. She quietly continued through the files. There were more of Claudius, *clothed*, and in his office. There were also videos of his wife in her room. The videos continued to get worse while Zara shifted through them. "This woman is obsessed with him. How long has she been watching?" She was highly disturbed that Claudius' privacy was repeatedly being raped. All of a sudden, Zara let out a gasp. "Jelena is in this one! Come back!" She stopped the video of the medical bay, only resuming it once he had returned.

Marcus returned to the room carrying a glass of water for each of them when Zara mentioned the unpleasant name of Jelena. He froze, tensing up almost immediately, and did not want to take a step further. "Oh. Dare I ask whom she is having a tryst with?" he asked, as he slowly moved towards her. As he took steps forward he felt an unnatural pain in his body and he feared looking at his beloved niece after what had ultimately happened to her. When his eyes fell upon Jelena in the medical bay his hands went weak, he lost his grip on the glasses of water, and they both dramatically fell to the ground. Glass shattered everywhere and the water began to flow across the floor, causing him to become further alarmed. "I'm sorry. I'll get it! I'll get it! Watch your step," he encouraged, before he ran to grab a towel. He dropped to his hands and knees besides her, trying his best to clean up the mess he had made. His eyes occasionally angled upward at the screen, watching the ISB files with Zara.

The sound of the glasses hitting the ground made Zara jump in her seat. She'd been holding herself tense, knowing full well that she was playing with fire by looking at these files. She swiveled towards Marcus after stopping her video. Zara realized that she was potentially exposing her husband to the last moments of his niece's life. She had no idea how far the video would go and she didn't want him to see her blown away. Her hand touched with his shoulder. "Don't worry about it. Can you go get us more water, please?" It was a roundabout way of protecting her husband. Only once he had left did she resume watching the video. Her fingers lingered over the buttons that would shut it off the moment the explosion occurred.

Zara watched as Iyah, and what she could only suspect were other Rebels, entered the medical bay and carefully placed Jelena into a wooden crate. She had to switch video feeds in order to keep an eye on the wooden crate. "Hm..." Eventually, the Rebels had reached the hangar where their ship was. Before her eyes, she saw Iyah and her crew push the wooden crate into a ship. She also saw the Inquisitor begin to toy with an older Rebel. She stopped the feed before he could die, but she had watched long enough to be sure that Jelena had not been killed. "That's weird..." She said, rewinding the video to watch the crate slide into the ship again. "She's not dead. She never left the crate." Zara mumbled to herself. They had seen Iyah since then, yet she never mentioned rescuing Jelena. Zara sat back, rubbing her belly to soothe the twins. "Something strange is up. I watched the video. The Rebels saved Jelena. Iyah was among their party. There's no explosion. No anything." She spoke once she heard her husband re-enter the room. There was something going on. Rapidly, Zara began copying all of Arden's files. "We need to go back there. We have to disable the camera in Claudius' office. We *have* to tell him his daughter isn't dead."

Marcus was actually surprised that Zara had asked him to perform another chore while he was on his hands and knees cleaning. He chalked it up to pregnancy affecting her mood, but diligently rose to his feet and moved back to the kitchen to gather more water. He took his sweet time getting the water, but eventually made his way back towards Zara and the monitor. "Wait. Are you certain, Zara?" he said, as he offered her the glass, and then proceeded to sip from his own. "Why would they lie about Jelena being dead?" he asked, as he took over the controls of the terminal and replayed the footage. "If we tell Claudius that Jelena is alive and we're *wrong* it'll destroy him and my relationship with him," he said, as he watched the footage several times over. What he was witnessing was not the official report that the family had been given. "Before we tell him, we need to find *her*," he said, freezing the screen on the image of Iyah, who may very well be his sister-in-law by now.

She took the glass from him. After watching that video, she felt like she needed a drink...though something infinitely stronger than water that she couldn't have right now! She took a long sip, watching him replay the footage once again. It was all right there. Of course, they could still be very wrong. Marcus' question hung in the air uncomfortably. Why? The news clearly only hurt the family. It hurt Claudius most. *Wait*! It hurt Claudius most. She grasped her husband's wrist suddenly. As she arrived at her conclusion, a twin prodded her hard in the lungs and caused her to gasp. "To take Claudius out. The rest of the family was hurt by Jelena's death, but your brother was destroyed by it. Not only that, someone went out of their way to attempt to blow up his *wife*. By these videos, it's very clear that someone is creepily watching him. This Arden Zevrin person ... who is she?" She posed the question towards him, but expected no answer. She needed to dig around a lot longer to form a real conclusion about all of this. There were other things to consider: this video being a fake. She didn't want to run blindly to Claudius and destroy the relationship him and Marcus had. She stared at the frozen picture of Iyah. "I agree. She knows where Jelena is and what really happened. We need to take out this woman's eyes first." She said, pulling up a secondary video that was a live feed of his brother's office. "I'm disturbed by all of this. We need to watch his back too."

"I knew it was the Empire behind it," Marcus said to Zara, overconfidently, as he listened to her speculations behind the reason for falsifying Jelena's death. "Arden Zevrin is the commander of the ISB in my brother's Oversector," he said, not having any interaction with her either as himself or his Nerf Herder persona. "I don't know much. My encounters were always with Imperial Intelligence," he explained, as the level of conspiracy that was afoot here began to settle over him. "So we're going back to the Retributor?" he asked her, turning his head to examine her again. "We'll need a reason," he said, as he reached up with his wrist to feel her forehead. "Are you feeling alright? You don't look too good," he said, with a fake frown, as he plotted a convenient fictional illness to get them back with Doctor Tohan.

There was a gentle beeping noise that emitted from one of her devices. It signified that Arden Zevrin's body of work had copied. She rapidly began typing. Zara was removing her digital footprint from the Retributor. She thought hard while Marcus spoke. To protect their family, this needed to be done carefully. 'We have to. I'm going to need to review all these Zevrin files first. I will also need to figure out a way to block the cameras from working while we're aboard the Retributor. We cannot let this ISB woman know that we're involved with an attempt to foil whatever she's doing." Or wasn't doing. Zara clutched her stomach dramatically. "Now that you mention it, I'm not feeling so well. Can you call Doctor Tohan and arrange an appointment for tomorrow? I'm going to look around some more." She snatched his hand and kissed it. They might need the Nerf Herder to pull this off.

Zara zoned out entirely upon the files she had copied. She saw horrible things, like the miscarriage of Claudius' second wife. She witnessed a full spectrum of what Adren Zevrin was like. There were so many videos from Claudius' office, much too many for her to digest as she sat, cross legged, for hours and hours and hours. She was actually worried for her brother-in-law's safety at this point. She wished they could sway him to retire from his post and come *home*. Delaya would need him soon. Julius was growing older by the second. The young slicer was nearly asleep when she found a video of Arden and Sierra. "Mmmmm..." Zara grumbled, stretching out her legs which ached from sitting uncomfortably for so long. She witnessed an interesting video of Arden verbally dominating Claudius' wife. Zara could see how afraid she was. The girl shivered like a leaf. Grabbing her headphones, Zara quickly replayed the clip with volume. Like the Jelena clip, she had to listen to it nearly a dozen times by the time she realized what was happening. In her chest, she felt a severe ache for Claudius. She thought to how they'd acted together last time she had seen them. They were a *happy* couple. She didn't know if Marcus had ever seen his brother so happy. She certainly hadn't.

Zara was sick to her stomach. The meddling had majorly backfired. Her head rolled. Even her eyes felt hot. *Hormones*! She weakly rose to her feet. "M-Marcus..?" She had to get away from the videos. Arden Zevrin was a disgusting person. Before she could find her husband, she veered towards the closest bathroom to promptly lose her cookies.

When Marcus heard Zara cry out, he hurried into the refresher after her. "Zara, are you okay?" he asked, as he reached to grab her as she threw up that evening's dinner. "You were only supposed to be faking being sick," he told her, as he lifted her hair so that it would not work its way into the mess she had made. "Or are you a method actor?" he asked her, as he moved his hand up and down her back reassuringly. "What happened?" he asked her, as he held her up and away from the toilet. He could only imagine what horrors lurked inside the files of the ISB. He wished she had not delved so deeply into them, given her delicate condition during her pregnancy.

Ugh. This was her least favorite part of pregnancy. Zara couldn't handle the intensely stressful situations anymore without her stomach having a say (and more). Her small body shook while she partook in unpleasantness. It was comforting that Marcus was there, holding her long, silver hair and rubbing her back until she felt everything settle once more. She rubbed away the tears that had formed on her cheeks. She wished she had seen his brother and his wife nude again, and was simply vomiting out of reaction to the disturbing scene. Instead, it was so much worse. "We have to bring Claudius here *now*." She started out, her mind driving forward instead of backwards. "Tell him I went into labor or something. *Make* him come here!" Zara's sad eyes looked up at Marcus. What had she even seen? "You have to watch it. Listen to the video that's up right now. I don't want to explain it. It's too horrible." Nor did she know how to tell him that his sister-in-law was a puppet of Arden Zevrin.

Instead of allowing him to leave her, Zara embraced him tightly suddenly. She seemed to change her mind, attempting to tell him what her mind couldn't handle without him. "I...I saw that Arden lady meeting with Sierra. They were talking. She threatened Claudius' wife. She forced Sierra into seducing him." The words were sickening. She perked up all of a sudden, rising to her feet. "We have to watch more of those videos!"

Marcus could not believe what was happening. As much as he wanted to help his family and get to the bottom of things, he realized that sometimes it was better to be ignorant and happy than to know what was actually going on. "Claudius here?" he repeated, uncertain if he had heard her right. Before he could go and see the video for himself Zara revealed the unsettling news that Sierra was controlling his brother for the ISB. "I don't like what these videos are doing to you," he said, as he led her out of the refresher and back towards the living room. He sat her down on the couch, with a mountain of pillows beneath her. He raised her legs up in front of her so that she could lay out on the couch properly, before he moved towards the monitor to check on the video. He froze in front of it, not wanting to watch it, but he felt he had to. When he confirmed Zara's suspicions the color left his face and he sat there silent. After all his brother had been through there was now a need to tell him *this*. "He's going to hate me..." he said to himself, more than to Zara, as he sunk down in the chair, utterly deflated. Without looking at the screen he brought up the comm panel to transmit a message to his brother, per Zara's instructions. Just when he thought his family's ordeals might be at an end it now seemed they were just beginning.

Sierra Rodney was oblivious to the fact that her and Claudius were about to get massively blindsided. She was working on rearranging her husband's schedule to make it possible for him to go home as frequently as possible. The man was busy. It took time to shuffle around everything. There was an unexpected incoming message from Marcus. Respecting her husband's privacy, she rose from her desk and moved towards his office. She knocked on his door once before entering. "Claudius, there's a message from your brother." She told him as she strolled over to his desk. The message detailed out that there had been severe complications with Zara's pregnancy and that they were needed at the chalet to aid Marcus with everything. The message did well to convey a new father's stress. She grew concerned as he read the message. "We should go."

Claudius was always pleased when Sierra interrupted him as it meant a break from his boring routine of reading reports from the six systems he governed. But when the news came that something was wrong on Delaya with Zara's pregnancy his heart immediately sank. His face went white with terror. He knew right away that they needed to go, even before Sierra suggested it. He rose from his seat and moved swiftly towards Sierra, not even bothering to deactivate his terminal. "Should we bring Doctor Tohan?" he asked her, as he took her by the arm, and began moving from the office to the corridor that would lead towards the turbolift. Zara seemed like such a nice young woman and it pained him to know what she was going through. Drusilla's complicated pregnancy had cost the life of his first wife, Julia, and memories of that were now coming back to him.

They couldn't be on Delaya quickly enough. Sierra's heart was pumping quickly. She worried about what had happened. Zara still had weeks of pregnancy left for her to endure before it was remotely safe to give birth to the twins. She was moving with him. "Absolutely. He needs to be with them." She held onto him tightly while the turbolift creeped downward. Marcus had sent the coordinates for the chalet with his message, numbers which she was now mentally repeating to herself. As the turbolift came to a stop, she squeezed his arm. "Go to the ship. I'll gather Doctor Tohan." Time was ticking. Sierra darted out of the lift towards the medical bay. She crashed into Pilaq's office unannounced and spouted out the story in rapid succession. "Marcus messaged us. Zara isn't doing well. You need to come with us." Despite not knowing Zara well, Sierra realized that her concern was growing with the urgency of leaving.

Doctor Pilaq Tohan was tending to his usual assortment of wounded Imperial and malingerers when Sierra unexpectedly surged forward into his sickbay. "Oh no," the Ithorian doctor said, grabbing hold of his medical bag, before hurrying along with Sierra. "Were any additional details provided?" he asked, from each of his large mouths at either side of his head. His large bulbous eyes grew heavy at the thought of something going wrong with either Zara or her unborn twins. As they moved through the lift they arrived in the hangar bay where Claudius had already settled onto the shuttle. Making use of his walking stick, made of fallen wood from his native Ithor, he moved as best he could onto the ramp of the shuttle. He gave a concerned look to Claudius before taking his seat next to him. Nothing ever remained too quiet around this family.

"No additional details provided, Doctor. The message was very frantic." She reported to the good Doctor. Her stomach fell further and further inside of her body. Goodness...what had happened? Sierra shared a worried look with him. Hustling, they were able to make it to the shuttle rapidly. The young ISB officer made her way towards the front of the ship. She was already turning on engines and preparing the ship for departure before she fully sat. She would manually fly the ship the whole way so that she could achieve quicker speeds. It had already been nearly ten minutes since Marcus' message appeared.

"Please don't hate me. I'm so sorry, Marcus." Zara whimpered as she settled into bed upstairs. While she might not be sick to the degree which they decided to tell Claudius, she did feel *horrible* both inside and out. She threw up again directly after the message sent. Her legs hurt so bad. Her whole body felt like it had been thrown off by the emotional toll of the Arden videos. It would be her husband who would have to head up exposing Sierra. Settling into a sea of pillows, one of which she had stolen from him, Zara began to feel serious fatigue. "They'll be here soon. All the proof is already there. If you can't tell him, show him." She kissed his lips. She had no idea that their doctor was going to show up. They needed to pull something big to get Claudius to come at the drop of a hat. As she began to fall asleep, she swore she could hear the sounds of a ship's engine.

While Marcus did not hate Zara for getting actually sick during her fake illness, he was somewhat disgruntled that the unenviable task of confronting his brother with his wife's treachery would be his alone. He stayed with her only long enough to listen to her last bit of encouragements, but he found it difficult to speak. His jaw was clenched tight and his hands were balled into fists as the nervousness of what was about to happen took hold of him. "Wish me luck," he said to her, as he gave her a soft pat on the belly, before descending the stairs to the ground level. Maybe he would be fortunate and they would land on the frozen lake and be devoured by the sea monster before he would have to speak to them. He placed his winter coat on and stepped out into the darkened snowy evening to wait for them to land. He closed his eyes, rehearsing what he would say over and over again in his head. Nothing he thought of seemed right.

The flight had been as quiet as death. Everyone was left alone to their thoughts and worries. The sight of Delaya did not bring relief, but more worries. The only communication she had managed to send Marcus was the confirmation that they were coming. Northern Delaya was snowy and covered in ice. Sierra spotted the chalet through the harsh conditions. She looked for a safe place to land, then took down the shuttle as softly as she could. Again, she rose while the ramp lowered itself. Her eyes landed on Claudius, sharing a silent, mutual worry for their family. She positioned herself between her husband and Doctor Tohan so they could all carefully descend down the ramp. It was freezing outside. The wind whipped through her hair uncomfortably. In a distance, she heard a loud groan. Together, she pushed the trio towards the light of the chalet. She could see Marcus' shadow. "Brother!" She called out. "We came as quickly as we could." Sierra offered him a modest, yet supportive, hug.

Claudius descended the ramp with Doctor Tohan and his wife into the most miserable weather conditions he had ever seen. "Brother, how can you live in such an awful place?" he asked him, as he moved past Sierra and Marcus and moved directly into the house. Even a few moments in the cold proved to be murder on his tired old bones. Once he was inside he still did not feel warm enough ... but he soon would. He looked around for a thermostat, but finding none, made use of his brother's well stocked liquor cabinet for just one drink to warm him up. "How is Zara?" he asked, as he turned his attention to his brother, once he had seen to himself. If he had known the real reason he had been brought here he would have needed a lot more than the single drink he had taken.

The hug from Zara was painful, and he could not bring himself to return it. Instead, he used the cold as an excuse and ushered everyone inside as quickly as possible. "Help yourself," he said to Claudius as he watched him raid the bar, but he did not join him, as much as he wanted to. "Zara is not doing well. Hopefully Doctor Tohan will know what to do," he said to Claudius, as his eyes moved towards Sierra. "Sierra, would you be a dear and help Doctor Tohan up the stairs?" he suggested, as a way of getting some time with his brother alone. He did not want her there when he first revealed the new to him.

Sierra clutched her arms to her chest after pulling back from the hug. She had no idea how they managed to live through the weather. Her eyes brushed over Claudius. A single drink was nothing. He'd been doing well lately. Besides, she didn't blame him. She was chilled to the bone. It was about to get a lot colder in the chalet. "Of course." She grabbed Pilaq's arm to aid him up the stairs. The weight in her chest increased with each step. Without knowing how bad Zara was, all she could do was worry. They might not share a familial love for each other, but she never felt ill-willed towards the woman. It was taking forever to make it up all the stairs. "Almost there." She promised the Doctor.

"I am a doctor ... not an interior designer ... but if you wish for me to continue making house calls I must insist you install a turbolift," Doctor Tohan said to Marcus, before he allowed Sierra help him up the stairs. It took for what seemed like forever for the geriatric Ithorian to move up the stairs to where Zara was. Each step threatened to break his legs and, whatever condition he found Zara in, it was likely he would be in worse shape by the time he reached her. At long last he made his way into the room where Zara was resting. "Lady Zara?" he asked, as he stomped the bottom of his walking stick against the floor several times to herald his arrival.

Sierra questioned how the pregnant woman made it up and down all these stairs. They really did need to install a turbolift. Their ascension was slow. She was trying to make sure Doctor Tohan didn't get himself severely injured on the way up. Together, they both made it to the second floor in one piece. The door to Marcus and Zara's bedroom was opened. Sierra hung in the doorway, watching Doctor Tohan for a moment. It wasn't her place to butt in on her sister's medical conditions. She opted to return to the men to worry with them. Sierra turned her back on the bedroom and headed towards the stairs, roughly three centuries after aiding the Doctor up them.

The sound of Pilaq's walking stick awoke Zara. She was surprised to see him, but then she wasn't. Doctor Tohan was a good doctor. Claudius cared enough to make sure that he was there. Her hand reached out, grasping his and drawing him close. She looked sick. Her face had paled and exhaustion had settled in. She quickly began to explain herself to the Doctor, filling him in on Sierra's betrayal while making him promise to stay upstairs with her. Downstairs, Marcus was going to level his brother. She should have been there for support.

"Claudius..." Marcus said, once they were alone, his breath heavy and his heart beating at a painful rate. "Claudius, sit down," he asked him, as he led him towards the terminal where the ISB footage had been prepared. "Claudius this isn't going to be easy," he said, feeling the sudden need to both throw up *and* go to the bathroom. He pressed a button bringing up the footage of Major Zevrin and Sierra, where the plot to seduce and distract Claudius was first conceived. It sickened him to have to do this, but it pained him more to not do it. He said nothing, and he could not bring himself to look at his brother. He hunched over, leaning against the wall, as he looked out into the darkness at the snow endlessly falling.

There was relief to be found in the fact that Zara was in the hands of her Doctor. Sierra had known Pilaq for so long. He could get Zara and Marcus through this. She searched briefly downstairs for her husband and his brother. She mindlessly walked in on something so unexpected that she hit her knees immediately when her eyes fell upon it. It. *It*. Before her, Sierra shuttered on a screen while Arden dominated her and bullied her into her scheme. At that very moment, Sierra lost everything. Claudius, the love of her life, slipped through her fingers. There were tears long before she could make out any words. All of their happy memories came blasting past her eyes. She recalled being so happy in the bath with him just the other night. Her feelings had developed so far from that moment. "Claudius..." Her voice was as broken as everything else. She forced herself to rise. She touched his shoulder with a shaky hand. "Oh my god, please hear me out. I wanted to tell you about *her*. I didn't know how. She threatened you. She threatened me. She threatened the rest of the family. Don't you remember when I told you I punched h-her?!" Sierra had begun to choke on her words because she was crying so hard. "I was trying to make her go away. She was mad at me for falling in love with you and marrying you. It was all I could do to keep you safe." Her hand fell away from him. She was shaking worse than she was in the video. "This isn't a lie..." She defended herself. "She made me go see you, but every word I've ever said to you is the truth. I have never manipulated you. I've never been dishonest with you in any other way... I love you... I didn't know how to tell you." Her words fell silent to the sound of her tears. Her heart ached so badly. Though he was still there, he had suddenly gotten much further away.

Claudius watched the footage or Arden and Sierra silently, unable to speak even a word. It pained him to very essence of his being. Even when Sierra entered the room and began her desperate protest to what was unfolding on the screen ... still he said nothing. He sat there, as if catatonic, as he internalized everything that was happening. If his brain were a computer it would have crashed and perhaps been beyond any hope of repair. After what seemed like an eternity he rose to his feet, but looked at neither Marcus nor Sierra. His body experienced tremors as it slowly processed everything he had just learned. He moved towards Marcus swiftly, as if he had just emerged from a coma, with deliberate intent. He should have been mad at Arden for starting this process, he could have even been mad at Sierra for not being forthcoming about it, but instead he decided to kill the messenger. Mustering what strength as still in his tired old hands he balled his right hand into a fist and sucker punched his brother square in the jaw. His hand was trembling, covered in a mix of his and Marcus' blood. He turned his head to look at Sierra, staring her down for what seemed like an hour, but was only a second. "We're leaving," he said, before he threw his hand away from him to send the blood splattering to the floor. Without wasting another moment on this affair he turned and walked out in the unforgiving cold of the frozen tundra that surrounded the chalet.

The world had crumbled. This was it. Sierra had no idea what she could say to her husband to make this better. The video that Marcus had shown him had obliterated anything she could say. It was just as Arden had planned. Deep in Sierra's mind, she knew this day would come. She had wanted to be with Claudius as long as possible before it happened. Little did she know, her time was up. While the world froze around them, Claudius said nothing until he stood. It should have been she who he hit. Instead, Marcus was the one who would suffer for his brother's fury. She was still crying as she watched him punch his brother in the jaw. There was blood. There was pain. There was chaos. Through her teary eyes, she looked worried for Marcus. Everything had unfroze. Now the world was moving *too* fast. Claudius proclaimed that they were leaving and headed on his way. Sierra didn't stop to gather the Doctor. "I'm so sorry.." She said to Marcus, running out after her husband. She caught up to him inside of the ship. Her clothing was covered in snow. She felt as cold inside as she did outside. Sierra didn't take off. With the ramp locked into place, she had created a cage for her and her husband to resolve the problem, or allow themselves to be destroyed by it. The young woman stood in front of her husband. Her hand caught his injured one. Her other hand reached into her pocket to pull out a handkerchief. She started to wipe away the blood through her blurry vision. She couldn't even look him in the eyes. "Claudius Rodney, I love you. I.. I can't think of life without you. I've wanted to tell you about Arden since the beginning. I knew she had a camera in your office. There was never a safe place to tell you. There was never a right time. The more things progressed with us and the more time we spent together, I've come to love you so fully. You really have given me all of my happiest moments. I love you so much, and I'm in so much pain because of what she did. I've been so conflicted." She forced her chin upward. "I'll do anything to mend this. Please, *please* don't leave me."

The punch connected with Marcus' jaw, sending him down to the ground almost instantly. No one had ever gotten such a blow on him before. As Claudius and then Sierra departed the chalet he sat there motionless, in silence, before finally bringing his hand up to his jaw. "Ow!" he cried as he made contact with the sensitive area, figuring it to be broken. When he finally got back to his feet he did not chase after his brother, but instead went to the kitchen to get some ice. With an ice pack against the side of his face, he slowly made his way up the stairs in defeat. "Well that didn't go very well," he mumbled, barely able to form words, when he finally moved back into the room with Zara and Doctor Tohan. He collapsed next to her, tears beginning to flow from his eyes at the realization as to what had happened. He had lost a brother.

Claudius found himself at the controls of a shuttle for the first time in more than a decade. His hands went over the controls, but he was not sure if he was powering up the reactor, or triggering a self destruct. "It is alright, Sierra. It was not your fault," he said, but he did not look at her. Instead he continued to fiddle with the complex controls of the shuttle, cursing himself for forgetting how to operate the craft. He had become so lazy in his duties, relying on pilots and staff, that he could barely manage to dress himself at this point. That is how people like Arden Zevrin had managed to get their claws into him. That is how all of this had become possible. "I just want to go home," he said to her, before firing off the thrusters to lift their shuttle off the frozen surface of the planet. He was in shock. He barely knew what he was doing. But he managed to lower the two wings of the craft and send them skyrocketing towards the atmosphere. "Send a ship for Doctor Tohan for when he is finished with Zara," he said, matter-of-factly, as he continued his cold, businesslike demeanor. "Was she even sick?" he asked Sierra, under his breath, as he cursed his brother for doing this to him.

When they entered the space surrounding Delaya, Claudius began downloading the coordinates that would return them to Esseles, but for all he knew he would send them into the Unknown Regions. "I love you, Sierra," he said to her, as he fiddled with the computer, desperately trying to keep himself together by busying him with the operation of the shuttle. "You were young ... naive ... and Arden is very skilled at manipulating and controlling people," he explained to her, as he prepared to send them into hyperspace. "I don't blame you. I blame her for once again entering into my personal affairs," he said, as he shifted forward in his seat. When the navicomputer beeped he moved his hand forward on the controls to send them into hyperspace. "Put this from your mind. Do not mention it again," he said, once he engaged the autopilot, and was free to rise from his seat. "But do not mention *them* again either," he said to her, unexpectedly, as he chose to blame his brother for his part in shattering his illusions. As he stumbled back into the passenger compartment of the shuttle, he lay down on the bench and stared up at the ceiling. What was he going to do about Arden Zevrin?

Back in the chalet, Doctor Tohan had gone through with checking Zara out. He advised her against stressing herself out so much which was advice that she could use to take...but didn't. She was worried about what was going on downstairs. Her legs ached with cramps, one of the wonderful parts of pregnancy that they don't tell you about. It wasn't until he arrived, ice pack on the side of his face and absolutely horrible look on his face that Zara realized things had gone as badly as possible. She wanted to cry for her poor husband. For as long as forever, Zara held her husband close. She let his tears fall while her arms provided warmth and comfort. Today had turned into a miserable day. She was sorry she had ever prodded around the ISB information. Everyone had been injured.

Like Sierra. The guilt went deep inside of her. The fact that he refused to look at her was worrisome. And the tears, goodness, they just kept falling. She had no idea why she allowed him to fly them home. Maybe she hoped they'd all die on the way and not have to live with the pain anymore. Internal conflicts ate her away as she sat, her limp body buckled into a seat. She hid her face away in her hands. "I-I can do that. I don't know if she was sick. She did not look well." Sierra reported. Neither did her or Claudius at the moment. It surprised her to hear him confess to still loving her. In her mind, she had imagined this scenario too many times to count. It was never Marcus who told him. Sierra was sure she would eventually tell her husband the truth. She wished she had done it. He blamed Arden above all else and wanted to close the topic all together.

Sierra, forcing her tears to stop, unbuckled herself and rose. First, she adjusted the coordinates for Esseles so they didn't end up in a situation worse than this one. Next, she followed him back to the passenger compartment. Sierra didn't place any distance between them. Despite how uncomfortable it may be, she crawled right up on top of him. Her arms locked around him. Her ear pressed against his chest to hear the beating of his heart. She closed her eyes tightly. She was crying again. The video had ripped her heart clear out of her chest. She could only imagine how he was feeling. "I love you," she whimpered sadly to him. "You've made me into a better person than that. It is you who gave me the strength to stand up to her. I will fix this." Sierra proclaimed. She'd fix it. She was going to kill that woman.

Despite all that transpired Claudius and Sierra were okay.

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