Zevrin sat quietly in her office aboard the
Retributor, reviewing the latest plans for the
marketing blitz concerning Sierra Rodney's goodwill
tour of the Ringali Shell. The incident on Corulag
had pushed back the tour dates, but now that the
Major had been cleared to return to duty she saw no
reason why the tour could not go on. As she sat in
her chair, with her back to the door, she was eating
some of the baked good that Ensign Sheppard's mother
sent to her each month. One advantage of directing
the ISB in the region was being able to intercept
the mail and all the delightful goodness contained
within. She had put on some weight raiding the care
packages, but they made for excellent snacks as she
watched interrogations and executions. For what she
was about to subject Major Rodney to she very much
needed some added energy.
It was Major
Sierra Rodney's first day back ... and she had been
nothing but slammed. Her desk was barely capable of
holding up the weight of all the datapads that were
stacked on it. Nothing but the tippy top of her hat
was visible when she sat at her desk, consuming one
by one while managing her husband's schedule. The
datapads provided a great distraction for the
inevitable meeting that she had scheduled with
Zevrin. As the time drew near, she snuck in a
pudding at her desk to soothe her hormones as well
as her stomach. She could only imagine what was
going to happen. She had to be on her best behavior
to ensure no one got hurt.
At last, she
rose from her desk. Her head turned to look at the
door separating her office from the Grand Moff's.
She sighed. He knew what was coming too. He knew
she'd be leaving right about now. With a feeling of
severe discomfort growing in her gut, Sierra made
the trip to *Colonel* Zevrin's office. She entered
roughly thirty seconds before their agreed upon
meeting time and presented herself, crisp, clean,
and professional, to Zevrin. "Colonel, it's good to
see you again."
Arden spun her
chair around when Sierra entered her office, and
flashed her a painfully forced smile. "Major, so
good to see you back on duty," she said, as she rose
from her seat and moved closer towards her. "I am
glad to see you looking well," she said, as she led
her towards one of the seats in front of her desk.
"Can I get you some water? Tea? Caf?" she asked, as
she turned up the charm as high as it would go.
Clearly the false pleasantries revealed hardships
were to come. She had a set agenda, but she would
allow Sierra to get somewhat comfortable before she
thrust it upon her. For now she was content to play
the part of an attentive host. The smile on her face
had been carefully honed in hours of practice in
front of the mirror.
within the web of the spider, watching Arden fake
her pleasantries. The only reason to be kind to
Sierra was to seriously hurt her. It was like the
kind of spider than numbs its prey before eating it.
Cruelly kind. "Thank you. The time off did wonders."
She slowly lowered herself down into one of the
seats. There was no way to make herself comfortable
here. In her mind, this conversation was going to be
about the concerts. She had five left and she'd been
dragging her feet. She assumed there would be some
kind of repercussion. For the sake of her family,
herself, and her son, she'd have to take it and not
fight back. Her blue eyes flickered towards Arden.
"Um, water please. Thank you." She didn't stop
studying the woman. "I take it you've been well?"
through her darkened office where she found a
pitcher of chilled water and expertly poured a glass
for Sierra. Returning, still with her fake smile,
she offered it up to the young, pregnant woman.
"Here you are, Major," she said, before moving to a
small cabinet in the corner of her office. Opening
it revealed an instrument, which she quickly pulled
out to examine. "I was never artistic. Couldn't
draw. Couldn't play an instrument. Couldn't sing,"
she said, as she pursed her lips, before moving back
towards Sierra with it. "I had ... *other* ...
skills," she said, with both a smirk and a wink,
before handing the instrument over. "Before your
concert tour resumes I need to ensure you're up to
the task. We don't want to be embarrassed," she
said, as she moved back until she placed her butt on
the top of her desk and sat directly in front of
Sierra. She folded her hands neatly in her lap as
she looked towards Sierra, dangling her legs
distractingly. "Play me something," she said, before
tilting her head to watch what happened next.
the glass of water, looking at Arden with her own
fake smile in fine form. "Thank you, Colonel." She
took a sip from the glass. It was so cold on her dry
throat that it was unpleasant...or maybe that was
just Arden. Sierra set the glass back down.
Recognition struck over her face as she saw the
instrument...a violin much like the ones she had at
home. Mhm. This was about the concerts. She listened
to Zevrin. "Art takes a lot of patience,
concentration, and discipline." Sierra replied. She
took the instrument from Zevrin. This was slowly
going to a bad place, but Sierra didn't see where
yet. All she knew was that Arden was so close that
she felt like she was choking.
How kind of you to look out for me." She really
thought about not playing. In fact, all Sierra could
imagine was beating the woman bloody with the
instrument. The reality of the situation was that
she had become very powerless. She was a pawn in
Arden's plans, and so, she settled the violin on her
shoulder. She plucked at the strings softly and
adjusted the tuning until it was perfect. Her free
hand then grasped at the long bow. This all reminded
her of playing for her mother. Arden's eyes, cruel
and calculating, watching her, *judging* her. Sierra
began to play. The sweet sounds of the violin cried
out in the room. She selected a classic piece, but
something difficult enough that it would show Arden
that she hadn't lost her touch. Perhaps pleasing the
woman would get her off her and her husband's back,
if only briefly.
said that the arts took patience, concentration, and
discipline, Arden recognized that it was a not so
subtle dig at her. She smirked, snorting through
both nostrils as she arched an eyebrow at the young
woman. The girl had a greater boldness than she had
presumed, but rather than fire back she instead
chose to focus on her performance. When she was
finished she brought her hands together in a slow
clap. "Well done, Major. I think you should be able
to perform on Chandrila without any issue," she
said, as she rose from her desk again and stood
before her. "But of course I am not an expert," she
said, as she circled around Sierra like a predator.
"What did you think, Lady Dakkar? Is your daughter
ready?" she asked, into the darkness, before leaning
down to place her mouth to Sierra's ear. "Surprise,"
she said, in a whisper, before withdrawing to avoid
the whirlwind she expected.
It was hard to
focus on performing with Arden there so close to
her. She tried to focus her mind on other, happier
places. She thought about enjoying the classic
speeder show with her husband. She clung onto this
thought until the song reached its ending. The last
note was still ringing out when Sierra was dropped
back into Arden Zevrin's office. She watched her
clap. Sierra felt exhausted. Each moment inside the
office was zapping more energy from her. "Thank you.
I think I'll be up to the task as well." She drew
the instrument from her shoulder. Both violin and
bow came to rest in her lap. She seemed to briefly
melt into the chair, that is, until Arden said two
words that sent her into a defensive mode: Lady
Dakkar. Sierra's eyes widened. The single word the
venomous woman whispered into her ear confirmed it.
darkness in Arden Zevrin's office, Rikka Dakkar
emerged. It looked like Arden had allowed her a
total make over after releasing her from her cell.
Rikka had taken inspiration from her new friend;
blonde hair, thin eyebrows, and a smile that could
kill. She strolled into the light. The woman had a
new boldness about her. On the Retributor, she was
convinced that Claudius Rodney had *no* power over
her. This was Arden's battlefield, as it had been
explained to her. "She could use more practice. Look
at her. She's too busy spreading her legs to spend
enough time on her instrument." Rikka frowned. "I'm
so disappointed in you, Sierra." She crossed her
arms over her chest.
was wide open. She retaliated, as expected, and
threw the violin towards Rikka. Even though Rikka
avoided it, the violin smashed against one of
Arden's walls. She should have asked Claudius to
execute her immediately.
temper," Arden chided Sierra as the violin went
flying through the air, smashing into the wall and
shattering. "I would have thought you would have
raised her better than that, Lady Dakkar. To respect
her things, rather than break them," she said,
before she moved to one of the bottles of Alderaan
ruge she had acquired when Sierra sobered up the
Grand Moff. She poured two glasses and turned
towards the woman. "One for you," she said, as she
handed the glass to Rikka. "And one for me," she
said, as she took a sip from the other glass.
"...but none for preggers," she said, before taking
another sip. "I'd allow you two to have a private
reunion in my office, but I don't trust you not to
break everything," she said, with a smirk, before
taking another sip. She needed to remind Sierra that
she was still in charge around here ... and she
thought she had done just that!
Major was so furious. She had to control her heavy
breathing to work herself down from such a point of
rage. This was the worst possible scenario: Arden
and Rikka teaming up. She had very much so been
reminded of how small she was on the Retributor. It
didn't matter that she was married to a Grand Moff.
What went on here was above them.
Rikka made an
unhappy noise. "Ew. Don't blame that on me." She
said, pointing towards her daughter. "Her wretched,
nasty husband is a bad influence." The woman wasn't
going to take responsibility for the poor state of
her daughter. As she took the glass of ruge from
Arden, the woman laughed hard at her joke. "None for
preggers..." She said, instantly swallowing half the
contents of the glass. "That's what you get, Sierra.
Remember, he'll leave you if you get too fat." She
leaned over with the intent of poking her daughter
in the stomach.
had gone on long enough. Sierra's hackles were
raised by what had happened. She slapped her
mother's hand away and rose. "You two enjoy
yourselves." She was so angry. The best option was
to turn her back on this and run away. That's
exactly what Sierra did. She retraced her steps back
to her office while turmoil exploded in her head.
She said nothing to anyone she passed. It was only
half relieving to find herself in her office again,
because she knew that Arden was recording every
interaction between her and Claudius. Yet, Sierra
marched right into his office. She was in one piece
and clearly distressed. She didn't stop until she
reached his desk. There, she leaned down and kissed
him on the lips. His love worked as an emotional
reset button, which she needed right now to calm
herself. "That woman is so horrible.." She said,
kissing him harder just to make it all go away
briefly. She'd rather recount her tales from a state
of mind where she didn't want to break everything.
"I hope it
wasn't something we said," Arden said to Rikka,
before tapping her glass against Rikka's glass in a
toast. She was glad that Claudius and Sierra had
handed over a valuable asset like Rikka to her when
they imprisoned her. She now had yet another piece
to maintain her control over the Ringali Shell. "So
there's plenty of wine. Tell me everything," she
said, with a smirk, before sitting down at her desk
and turning on the recording devices. *This* was
going to be an interesting conversation.
herself comfortable in Arden's office. She was glad
to hear that they had plenty of wine, because she
had so much to tell her new friend about. Arden was
a woman who understood what a pain Sierra was.
"Everything? You're in for a story..." She smirked,
beginning to recount the torturous hell she had put
her daughter through. Rikka spoke like she was the
victor in a war, not a mother who abused her child.
She took pride in the things she had done to craft
Sierra to perfect. Her only regret was ever allowing
her to leave Alderaan, join the Imperials, and
Claudius could say a word Sierra had kissed him,
confusing him to no end. He knew that Arden Zevrin
was a terrible woman who hurt his wife at every
opportunity, but there was not much he could do
without invoking the wrath of the Emperor, who had
declared his support for her. "What now?" he asked,
as the kiss broke, fearing the worst. He wanted
Sierra at his side during his days languishing at
work, but it also placed her back in Colonel
Zevrin's crosshairs. He had been reviewing the
latest list of individuals that she had ordered
executed in *his* name, which was quite the bitter
pill to swallow. For a man who seemed to have much
power he felt incredibly weak.
She was glad
to return to work. No matter where they were, she
meshed well with Claudius. The part about returning
that sucked was Arden...and now Rikka too. She let
out a final sigh to finish decompressing. Her heart
had settled in her chest. "Zevrin released Rikka."
Sierra told him. "It started out as a meeting about
the concerts. She wants me to play on Chandrila
next. She asked me to perform for her, I did, and
then she brought in Rikka... I *had* her, Claudius.
We had her imprisoned and I spent too much time
trying to make up my mind about executing her. I'll
bet you any amount of credits that she's in there
telling Arden everything, providing her with an
unlimited amount of ammunition." She wrapped her
arms around his neck loosely, standing behind him.
"I'm okay. Seeing her didn't throw me off as much as
it normally does."
*what*?!" Claudius asked, as he took both of his
hands and slammed them down on his desk in a fury.
"She has gone too far this time," he said, as he
rose from his desk and moved to the viewport to
consider their next move. As her arms came around
him he was momentarily brought back from his
scheming into reality. "Whatever your mother tells
Arden we have to work on getting you past. If we can
neutralize that weapon it will be a victory against
her. A small victory, but a victory all the same,"
he told her, as he slowly turned around to face her.
"You are not a little girl on Alderaan anymore. I
know your mother makes you feel that way, but you've
grown past that. You're an adult. A strong,
independent woman. She can't hurt you anymore," he
told her, as he tightened his grasp around her. He
knew how deep the wounds that Rikka had inflicted on
his wife were, but he could not give up on trying to
help her move on.
She wanted to
do *something*, like throw Arden and Rikka out of
the airlock. She agreed that things had gone too
far. Summoning Rikka was nuclear since Sierra hated
her so much. "What can we do?" She asked him,
pressing her head against his back. The idea of
getting over all the things that had happened meant
that she had to face it. In her mind, she spiraled
back to her youth. She recalled crying on the floor
in a puddle of her own blood, begging for her mother
to save her one more time. She could be good. She
Like an arctic
wind had blown into Claudius' office, she shivered
in his arms. She wanted to gain a victory against
Zevrin, which would require coming face-to-face with
her problems. Her chin tilted upward, looking at
him. Her lower lip quivered at his sweet, confidence
building words. "But what about our children? I feel
like I can't protect all of them from her. You
remember the baby shower, she *wants* to hurt them.
I think these days I'm less afraid for myself, and
more afraid for them." She pressed her head into his
shoulder. "I... I simply cannot understand why she
did what she did. Seeing her...she thinks she did
something good. She nearly killed me so many times.
I'll never forget what that pain feels like." She
confessed to him until she was raw.
point I had planned to be patient. To allow her to
conduct her operations, which I expected would one
day blow up in her face and deal her a defeat she
would not be able to weasel out of," Claudius
explained, with a deep sigh, but as yet she had yet
to stumble since her return. On the contrary, she
had even been promoted. "She won't hurt the
children. Neither of us will allow that. I promise
you," he said, as he reached his hand up behind her
head and drew her head against his chest. "I'm
sorry, my love. I wish I had an insight into your
mother and why she acts like she does, but I've only
met her a handful of times, and have never had a
prolonged conversation with her," he said, as his
hand moved through her curly blonde locks. "I love
you. We will weather this," he promised her, as he
closed his eyes, and lowered his head into hers.
"The time will
come. She'll fall from grace eventually. I don't
blame you for taking the path you have. Considering
what we're up against, it's the best route." Sierra
cuddled against her husband. With him, she was
certain that she'd be able to neutralize herself
against Rikka. He ensured that she would never end
up in that situation, as well as their children. A
calmness began to settle in her chest. She could see
clearly once more. "I hope you're lucky enough never
to have a lengthy conversation with that woman.
You'd never like her. Not one bit." Her eyes closed,
*sigh*. "I love you too. I have no doubt we'll make
it through this. I'm going to work on getting over
my past with Rikka. If Zevrin sees her new plaything
is useless, then she'll throw the woman away... So
don't worry about me *as much* okay?" Sierra
squeezed him softly. Though it didn't seem like it,
Claudius had made a victory today; a victory with