Chapter 36: "You hurt me. So I shall hurt you."

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A holographic display appeared above the centre of the table. Captain Vieka turned his gaze toward it after Pina deliberately ignored his warning.

Lieutenant Janus stood to one side of the display, her hands crossed behind her back.

A single ship appeared. Assayer Neerada's corvette.

"This is the Scythe, Captain Pina. It is based on a fourth-generation Imperial corvette model, with state of the art sensor and communications arrays, as well as enhanced shielding and extra turbo laser emplacements. Its complement was just over seven hundred. It was designed for speed above all else. Such additions to the vessel were made by sacrificing the usual corvette hull space for equipment. It was not a ship of comfort, but of function."

The display showed the Scythe slowing down as it approached an asteroid belt. From one of the larger planetoids an Imperial shuttle hastened out, heading toward the corvette.

"Approximately one hour before the Battle of Endor began, the Scythe was in the Cirdym system in our sector. The ship's log that I personally retrieved indicated that its commander, Assayer Neerada, ordered the ship to make a rendezvous with the shuttle that you see here."

On the display, the shuttle slowed and docked with the Scythe.

"I shall now bring up the internal recordings of what happened aboard the Scythe in the following moments. The data is somewhat corrupted by what occurred later, but it illustrates what happened well enough, I believe."

The interior of the Scythe was displayed in a quick series of recordings. The shuttle docked and dozens of stormtroopers surged down the ramp, gunning down anyone in their path. Within seconds they were in control of the bay and the corridors beyond. Once the bay was empty, the shuttle took off, leaving the landing space clear for a second one that had started out from the planetoid.

"At the same time," Janus said, "a dozen TIE fighters that were hidden in the asteroid field started their attack. Inside, the stormtroopers overwhelmed the bridge crew within two minutes. The log reveals that as well as lowering the ship's shields they also disabled the Nav computer to prevent any calculation being made to allow the Scythe to make the jump to lightspeed. And they issue the order to the crew to abandon ship, promising protection, which some start to do."

"A classic operation," Vieka said. "The Empire should be proud."

Pina reined in the smile that threatened to appear on his face.

"I don't believe the Scythe is finished just yet, Captain Vieka. One shouldn't underestimate the abilities of these Assayers. Proceed lieutenant."

"Very good Captain. It is at this point that things go wrong for the boarders. They met fierce resistance toward the engineering decks. Power was cut to the repulsor lift generators in much of the ship and gravity was lost. It seems that the stormtroopers were near defenceless in such an environment." The usually calm Janus's voice wavered. "As this next recording will show."

In a wide corridor a dozen or more stormtroopers floated uncontrollably in zero gravity. The lights flickered on and off. Up they went, until they floated near the ceiling.

Only for the gravity to return.

Pina winced as the men fell, crashing to the floor in a tangle of arms and legs, stunning them.

The lights flickered on and off again. The door at the end of the corridor opened. A bright red blade preceded its wielder, Neerada, suited in her black armour.

There was no resistance. Only two shots were fired at her as she stormed down the corridor, hacking and slashing at the injured men. Heads and limbs rolled free, men screamed into their helms, begging for a mercy that they knew wouldn't come. Within thirty seconds, she was the sole living thing in that corridor.

"I've never seen anything like it," Janus admitted. "The finest men of the Empire, cut down so easily." She took a breath and her eyes blazed in contempt. "They are a disgrace to our uniform!" She blinked and returned to her report. "By now, the stormtroopers in the bridge have broadcast a successful take over of the Scythe, though not, as we have witnessed, uncontested. The TIEs therefore hold back and take up a guarding position, without opening fire on the Scythe. Now, I would draw your attention to this recording, outside the bridge."

Neerada approached two stormtroopers guarding the entrance. For several seconds neither man moved as she stormed toward them, her lightsaber held in both hands. Only at the very last moment did one of the men turn and fire a shot at point blank range.

It was reflected off her blade and into the panelling opposite. The saber swung downward.

A second later, and both men were dead.

Janus paused the display. "We've all heard rumours of these Assayers. Everyone at the academy has heard stories about Lord Vader and his . . . abilities. I've never believed any of them." She nodded at the recording. "Until now. I just don't understand it. Why didn't they see her coming?"

She looked toward the two men and Pina knew she was looking for some confirmation for her thoughts.

"They do say the Jedi could do such things, in the waning days of the Clone Wars," he said.

"The Jedi?" Vieka gave a snort. "Children's stories and nonsense! The real Jedi were simply a sect of religious extremists who tried to seize power in a coup against the Emperor. It was proven that they had prolonged the war to further their own power, if not orchestrated the whole thing outright." He shook his head. "No Captain Pina, to give those backward fanatics any mystical abilities just plays into the hands of enemy propaganda and false hope. We should be thankful the Emperor and Lord Vader suffocated that flame when they did."

Pina remained expressionless, unwilling to continue the conversation.

"The bridge had sustained some damage when the stormtroopers moved in," Janus explained. "The recordings are very poor quality, but still . . ."

Neerada stormed the bridge and took a flying leap, covering a distance impossible for any human. Three stormtroopers fell before they knew she was amongst them. A fourth fired, his bolt coming off the lightsaber and missing her face by the tiniest margin.

He fell next. And then a trooper on the other side of the bridge shot at her. The blaster fire pierced her cloak as she sprinted to one side, hurling her weapon in the same instant.

It flew through the air, end over end, and ended up hilt-deep in the stormtrooper's chest.

He fell without a sound.

"Here. Watch this," Janus said softly.

The last stormtrooper faced Neerada. He took time to aim and when he fired he had accounted for her speed and movement. The shot hit her in her thigh, knocking her to one side.

She took cover behind a console as the trooper opened up. He had got off four shots when his blaster jerked upward, wrestling with him.

Neerada stood. Her right hand was outstretched toward him, shaking with effort.

Finally, the rifle flew from the trooper's hands and across the bridge.

"Impossible," Vieka murmured.

Neerada gestured to her right once more with her hand outstretched. The lightsaber flew into her waiting palm.

"You hurt me," the Assayer said. "So I shall hurt you."


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No money is worth signing up to become a stormtrooper is it? You seem more likely to get cut down by other Imperials than by some rebel scum with a bad gambling habit or delusions of grandeur! This chapter is too exposition-heavy for my liking, but it is a necessary process to show Neerada's immediate story before she made it to the Reaver, and it does allow for a bit of world building in the form of informing the reader what the characters think against what the reader knows what happened in Star Wars Revenge of the Sith. 

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