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Alice Bee and Christopher Levy.
One year after the Battle of Yavin (36:6:1) in the Essesia system: Retributor.
Lady Rikka Dakkar, Grand Moff Claudius Rodney, Major Sierra Rodney, and Colonel Arden Zevrin.

Colonel Arden 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.

She stood 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?"

Arden moved 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.

She clasped 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.

"You're right. 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.

When Sierra 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. "No..."

From the 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.

Sierra's mouth 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, 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!

The young 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.

The meeting 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.

Rikka made 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 change forever.

Before 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."

"She did *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 *could*...

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.

"Until this 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 his wife.

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