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Alice Bee and Christopher Levy.
One year after the Battle of Yavin (36:F3:5) in the Essesia system: Esseles (New Calamar: Claudius Rodney's estate).
Ewwiekewwieikkie, Melickielickie, Grand Moff Claudius Rodney, and Major Sierra Rodney.

Grand Moff Claudius Rodney was slow to descend the ramp of the Lambda-class shuttle Kwai after it had landed at the Rodney Estate on Esseles. On the perimeter of the property the tea house had finally finished construction and he thought perhaps it might be a better location to converse with his wife than the chaos of the main house. "This way," he said, tiredly, as he took his wife by the hand before leading her up the irregular stone path that led up the slope to where the tea house had been erected. He reached forward to open the simple door that revealed the comfortable and intimate confines within. Once inside he closed the door behind him and took up a seat on the upholstered settee. Unfortunately, he had not communicated their arrival so no tea and cake had been prepared. A tea house without tea and cake was a very sad sight indeed. "So..." he began, before reaching up with his left hand to rub his temple. "The Emperor could not have been more clear," he confided, grimacing slightly as if pained. There was much to process and even more to discuss.

Home sweet home ... seemed less sweet. Sierra had stared at it from the Kwai while it descended. She missed home, she missed her children, but she also had a heavy mass on her chest. As she made her way towards the house, Claudius redirected her towards the tea house. Immediately, she understood why he chose to go there. It would be quiet and relaxed. They could talk without anyone overhearing them. Sierra had checked, on more than one occasion, for ISB devices within the tea house. It was clean.

Upon entering, she removed her boots and continued forward. It was the first time in her life where it was tempting to drink her problems away. It was for the better that she was pregnant, and thus showed self-restraint. Instead of finding herself in the bottom of a bottle, she sat across from her husband with her legs crossed. She shared the pained look with him. "No. His words weren't open to interpretation. I... I can't believe he was responsible for what happened to Alderaan." Her lower lip quivered as she mentioned it. "And what he said about you..." The sadness sparked rage. "He has us trapped in every way, Claudius."

"I weep for Alderaan. My heart aches for it," Claudius began as he looked across at her before emulating her maneuver to become more comfortable and kicked off his constrictive leather boots. "That's better," he commented to himself, eager to take what creature comforts life afforded him given their dire circumstances. "...but while my heart aches what was done cannot be undone and there is the pressing matter of what will become of us," he said, before looking down at the toes he was wiggling in an attempt to improve circulation in his tired, old feet. "The Emperor believes me incompetent. I must strive to prove him wrong and in doing so protect you and our family," he said, though as yet he was unsure of how to achieve such lofty goals. The Emperor's words had shook him to the core and made him wonder privately if the setbacks the Empire had faced in the oversector were in fact his fault. While the rebels had been driven out of the Mid Rim and scattered throughout the Outer Rim after the initial success at Yavin his Core Worlds oversector seemed to be the loan source of success for the impetuous rebellion. No longer, he thought to himself, fists clenched as he attempted to refocus his emotions into a positive. "Today is for you, but tomorrow we shall return to the business of driving the rebels from this sector and protecting these new convoys leaving Ralltiir," he said, with a firm nod of his head, unaware that in doing so he would be aiding in the construction of a second, more powerful Imperial superweapon.

It couldn't be undone. It should have never been done in the first place. Instincts said to escape the Empire; to gather the family and hide. At the same time, intelligence told her that would be the one way to write their own deaths right now. She listened to him talk. In so many ways, she was absorbing the recent events of their life. She reached towards her husband, grasping his hand again. She was convinced if she let go, she'd be lost to the darkness again. She winced when he brought up how the Emperor felt about him. He wasn't incompetent, especially because he'd been given a shit hand of cards. Her hand squeezed his. "We will prove him wrong together, my love. We're much too far deep into this to do anything else." Her other hand drew towards him. Her fingers crept up his arm slowly to focus his mind on her and not the weight of the world upon his shoulders. "I do wonder what Palpatine is using the supplies from Ralltiir for. Are we about to, unknowingly, aid in another terrible plot of his?" She mused, her fingers continuing to dance over his arm.

She sighed. If they blew up Delaya next it would demolish her husband. Seeing through her own sadness, she moved to his side and cupped his face. "You're more than he realizes, you know? Your losses have come from the inside. That doesn't make for a fair representation of your abilities. We'll show him what you're really capable of. In doing so, we'll keep the heat away from our children."

Claudius believed that with Sierra at his side he was capable of anything in spite of what the Emperor said. He had not ruled out the possibility that this may have been some of test of loyalty of reverse psychology on the Emperor's part to motivate him. Her fingers drawn upon his arm caused a wave of pleasure to flow through his beleaguered frame. A smile formed upon his lips as he sighed contently. With her love he believed anything was possible ... including crushing the rebellion. "Ordinarily I would say it was none of our business and we should do as commanded..." he began, as he moved his hand across his frame to rest on her upper leg. "...but this is still my Oversector and if we are going to be threatened over these transports then we must investigate their cargo," he said, in arguably the first act of defiance and disobedience he had ever shown in his long career. It might not have been a distinguished career in terms of military triumph, but he had nevertheless remained loyal throughout. "I believe you, my love," he said, as he tilted his head down to rest it upon our shoulder. "*We* will show him," he said, before closing his eyes in an attempt to get some rest. "As delightful as this is there is a house full of children and animals that we cannot hide from forever," he said, without moving his head, but slowly rolling his eyes up to gaze upon her.

She slowly began to deflate. It was normal for her to ride at a high level of stress. No matter how many times Doctor Tohan told her to chill out, it really didn't happen. The day had worn on both of them. Sierra felt exhausted, though she knew there was no time to sleep. She looked at him. He intended to investigate the cargo and satisfy curiosity. That pleased her. If they were about to aid the Empire in creating something evil, she wanted to know. Her hand moved up, fingers entangling with his hair. "I will be interested to see just what the Emperor is doing. We will vaguely investigate as to not be tied to it should Palpatine find out. I can actually utilize my ties in the ISB instead of feeling embarrassed for being involved with them." She knew how to cover her tracks. They'd put Arden to work. If she was going to be a high-ranking officer, then she needed to pull her own weight. At this moment, she had to believe everything else would fall into place.

She bent down to kiss his forehead. "Mhmm... And I see you getting up to rush home so quickly." Sierra commented. They were becoming more relaxed and comfortable. She cuddled close to him, relieved to have another day with the man she loved. She smiled. "So let us hide a little longer." The second time she bent her head down, she kissed him on the lips. There had been no triumphs today, however, she would *not* let him slip into a depression over what the Emperor had said. She'd hold him up for as long as she needed to. They would make a better impression next time they met Palpatine face-to-face.

Any attempt for Claudius and Sierra to go unnoticed for that long a period of time was sure to fail. After all, there was a large shuttle on the landing platform that created a loud noise upon landing. The fact that Claudius and Sierra were not immediately swarmed was not a blessing, but in fact a curse because it meant *they*were up to something. That something would soon materialize as the door to the tea house flung open ... fortunately before Sierra and Claudius attempted any kind of physical intimacy. In marched Ewwiekewwieikkie wearing nothing but a kitchen apron and carrying a tray of half eaten miniature cakes that had the frosting licked off or sucked out given the type of cake it was. "Hurry with the tea before it gets hot, Melickielickie," she said, from beneath the mixing bowl that she wore upon her head like a helmet. "Nice droid came to bring cake. I sent droid away. Kept cake," she informed them, before placing the tray directly on Sierra's lap. She began shaking with excitement as her large, yellow eyes looked at Sierra for what she was sure was going to be a boisterous reaction. "You eat. Is good!" she informed her, before raising her fur covered feet up and down frantically.

Melickielickie was following slowly behind her sister. Callista's tea set was placed on a tray. It looked like she had poured fruit juice in the little cups, though most of them were now half full. The tray was soaked, as was the front of her dress. "Mommeee! Daddeeee!" She squeaked. Her big, yellow eyes reflected her excitement at seeing them. She nearly dropped the tray in her paws, but managed to set it in Claudius' lap. She crawled up on the seat right next to him. She wrapped her little, blue arms around him. Her face nuzzled into his tunic. Happily, she peered up at him. "Hiya daddeee." She pointed to the cups. "I made this for you."

There was no enjoying the silence in the Rodney household. No sooner had they kissed did the door swing open. Sierra smiled seeing Ewwiekewwieikkie. Her innocence was a thing of beauty. She hoped it would never be torn away from her. Ewwiekewwieikkie was one of the many motivating factors to being a better Imperial. If she had to endure something like Skor II again, the girl would never be the same. Melickielickie had also endured her traumas. It was Sierra's hope to protect them from further damage. She laughed out loud when she saw the tray of half-eaten, licked cakes. The tray ended up in her lap. She could see how the Squib shook in excitement. A large smile crept up her lips. "Awww. Thank you, sweetie. This is exactly what I needed!" She tried to make her reaction as loud as she could. She supported Ewwiekewwieikkie trying to be more independent, but that was because she was afraid she and Claudius wouldn't live to see the end of the war. She picked up the best looking, and least furry, cake and began to eat it. "You're both so helpful. Thank you, girls."

Claudius knew the serenity of the tea house could not last forever and he should have suspected the Squibs would soon arrive. He had arranged for the delivery of a servant droid to tend to Sierra and manage more of the domestic affairs, but it seemed that it had arrived during their stay on Delaya and his adopted daughter had sent it away. He would have raised his palm to his face at the news, but Melickielickie deposited the tea service on him before he was given a chance to react. "Oh. This is lovely," he said, before throwing a glance in Sierra's direction. He could have used a warm cup of tea at the moment, but it seemed that it ended up being the girls' juma juice. "Thank you so much," he said sweetly, before pouring himself a cup of juice to show them he appreciated their gesture. *This* is what he was fighting for. *This* is what he needed to protect from the rebellion and, it seemed, his Emperor.

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