Chapter 5 - Moral Authority

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"You're not the pilot," said Eve.

"I'm the Mayor-Captain of the free starship Jules Verne," replied the man on her screen "May I ask who you are?"

"No," Eve snapped "Who's this?"

Eve motioned with her head. The gesture didn't translate perfectly over a screen but her point was clear.

"Her name is Chloe Gethsemane, she's a youxia affiliated with the Jules Verne."

"Youxia?" asked Eve.

"A free knight," replied the Mayor-Captain, matter-of-factly.

"I want her on screen," said Eve "I want to see her face."

Eve wasn't sure why she had just said that. Maybe she was trying to talk herself out of killing the woman who was centimeters from her force sword, utterly at her mercy. Why shouldn't she just kill her now and avenge June?

Chloe's face popped into view beside the Mayor-Captain.

"So you're the one who murdered my friend?" asked Eve.

"I'm a soldier," replied Chloe "I didn't murder anyone. I only kill in battle."

"Don't try to justify yourself to me," Eve seethed "June wasn't a soldier in a war. She was a salvage pilot."

"She was an agent of the empire," replied Chloe "My only regret is the fact that I wasn't able to kill the salvage team fast enough to keep that Seraphim from falling into Imperial hands."

"By that logic: you're a rebel," snarled Eve "So why shouldn't I just kill you now like you did my friend?"

"There's no reason why you shouldn't," replied Chloe "I don't know why you let me live in our initial engagement. We're soldiers, you've defeated me in battle, you have the moral authority to kill me."

Moral authority to kill her? The ugliness of the idea ate away at Eve's conviction.

"What's the game? Do you have some kind of deathwish?"

"I'd prefer to keep living but I have no illusion about what I was getting into when I chose to rebel against the empire. I'm willing to die for this, I always have been, so if a superior warrior has beaten me twice today I'm at peace with being killed by her. I may die but the cause lives on."

Eve boiled with hatred for Chloe, made even hotter by the fact that she knew now she couldn't kill her. She couldn't let herself become like her.

Eve deactivated her force sword.

"Whoever you are," said the Mayor-Captain "It seems like you have a lot of good reasons to be angry with both of us at the moment, but there are things at play here that are bigger than any personal vendettas."

"I don't want to hear it," said Eve "You don't need to wait for the Imperials to arrive. I'm an Imperial and I'm targeting your mothership with both of my mass drivers. If you don't get out of here as fast as you're able I'm going to open fire."

She leaned back to disable the communications link.

"Wait!" said the Mayor-Captain "The starmap! Check your Seraphim's starma-"

The two windows containing his and Chloe's faces shrank into non-existence.

The red Seraphim spun around and blasted away towards the rebel ship, so Eve didn't even bother to make good on her threat to target it. The Jules Verne disappeared back into the debris field, where her sensors couldn't track it anymore.

Eve sat silently a while longer after that. She knew she couldn't wait out here in the Seraphim forever. Curiosity overwhelmed hatred. She wanted to know what was so important that June had to die for it.

She brought up the starmap on the cockpit's viewscreen. A three dimensional representation of all the mapped stars in the known galaxy appeared on her screen, along with any number of celestial symbols and notations. There was an awe-inspiring beauty to it; points of light representing the entire known universe.

Eve was no astrogater, and the symbols meant very little to her. It looked like every other starmap she had ever seen.

Eve flipped the screen back to the feed from the primary sensors, and then casually pressed the buttons atop her two joysticks. Her Seraphim took off towards the Ray Bradbury.

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