Chapter 37: Titus Perdition.

21 3 0
                                                  

The Assayer moved first, leaping over the console and covering the ground between the stormtrooper before the soldier could move. With a shout she slashed her blade across the front of his legs, hacked at his flailing arms as he fell, and hacking manically into his body, screaming as her weapon fell.

Pina averted his eyes.

"I have no wish to see this," he said. "Move it on."

Janus did so.

"With the Nav computer disabled, the Scythe cannot make a hyperspace jump. But the Assayer links her astromech droid up to the computer and instructs it to make the calculations to jump to Farsalt. She also removes a copy of the droid's memory before leaving the bridge. Just as she does so, Commodore Sarn makes his appearance. Three Star Destroyers: The Malevolent and the Onslaught, and the Assassin: his command ship. The corvette is hopelessly outgunned. The Commodore's ship orders their immediate surrender and orders the Scythe's crew to abandon ship. Listen to what follows this command, however."

A voice sounded from the Scythe's log. It wasn't the voice of an Imperial officer.

"I am Assayer Titus Perdition, heir to the Sith. By order of the Empire, Assayer Neerada is wanted for high treason. All her property is to be handed over to me with immediate effect."

The holographic display showed the corvette's life pods ejecting into space. They formed in a neat group, nine in total, as several more prepared to join them.

"But I fear Commodore Sarn likes to be thorough . . ." Janus murmured.

The life pods were disintegrated by a full broadside from the Assassin. Over the recording, Pina could hear those crew members from the corvette screaming into the comms, too late to reverse the escape launch process, knowing that the promise to spare them had been entirely empty.

He hid his face behind his hand, imagining their terror as they saw their comrades murdered in cold blood, knowing that they would shortly follow and that there was absolutely nothing they could do about it.

Pina looked up as the last pods launched. He hoped against hope that they might be spared, that some mercy might–

No! The Assassin opened up again. The pods were utterly destroyed, the screams and cries of those inside cut off in an instant. No one was spared.

Titus Perdition was speaking again:

"Surrender, Neerada, Fallen Assayer. You cannot run. You cannot survive. Hand yourself to me, and embrace the mercy of the Sith. There is no alternative."

Two TIEs were shown on the display, breaking formation. They flew over the engines and loosened off a savage burst from their cannons. The corvette buckled under the attack. Debris glittered against the darkness of space.

Two more turned inward, this time targeting the shield generator on the corvette's hull. The curved generator was battered beneath the well-aimed onslaught.

Janus nodded. "At this point, the Assassin moves closer to get the corvette in range for its tractor beam. Perhaps they have a suspicion that this Neerada has found an alternative way to compute the hyperspace calculations, which of course, she has."

A second later, the Scythe's rear engines erupted into life.

"All ship's engage!" Sarn's voice ordered. "Cripple the Scythe!"

The TIEs turned on the corvette as its engines flared up, firing indiscriminately. The Assassin poured all its batteries at the fleeing ship.

But at half a second time delay from firing to target was a half second too much in space.

For the Scythe had made the jump.

"She took a great deal of damage in those final seconds," Janus said. "The Scythe's shields were practically reduced to zero. They were travelling on an astromech's calculations rather than a proper Nav computer. They had no crew left on board to help operate her. It was clever of the Assayer to get into the TIE Interceptor in the hangar. It was the only form of escape remaining." She shook her head. "It's a miracle they made it to Farsalt, sir."

"Indeed. Tell me, did you retrieve any personal affects from the ship?"

"Only the droid sir, or what was left of it after the ship disintegrated. Our engineers are standing by to see if they can access any information left inside of it." Janus hesitated. "I thought it best to ask your permission before they begin sir. After all, Assayers can order Moffs what to do."

"Indeed they can," Pina said. "As well as star ship captains. Let me make this clear to both of you: Assayer Neerada survived her entry into the Farsalt system. She has taken command of the Reaver, as is her rightful authority under the Empire. But, she expressly wishes to remain covert - for reasons that are now quite obvious. Any action we take must therefore look like it is off our own initiative, rather than her orders. Now, only the three of us, as well as Lieutenant Cody and Commander Bauhaus, know that she is aboard the Reaver. It must stay that way for as long as the Assayer demands. Is that understood?"

Janus and Vieka gave their agreement.

"But what if she is a traitor, Captain?" the ISB officer asked.

Janus answered before Pina could speak. "I checked the HoloNet for any orders relating to Assayers in our sector, sir. I thought it wise to do so whilst we still have access to it, limited though that is."

"True," Pina said. "What did it say?"

"Nothing out of the ordinary. All Assayers should be treated as we have done, sir. There are no commands to the contrary."

"Very good," Pina said. "Leave the droid alone for the moment. As for you, Captain Vieka, have I satisfied you that I am acting under the Empire's orders?"

Vieka bowed his head, ever so slightly.

"You have, Captain Pina. For now."


=================

If you enjoyed this, then please vote for it and leave a comment in the feedback section below.

So it seems that elements of the Empire are already at war with itself even before the Battle of Endor took place! This is consistent with much of recent cannon in the Star Wars universe, such as the Vader comic series by Marvel where there is treachery and double-dealing amongst the Empire's own ranks. Pina has also played a clever hand in getting support of the ISB officer aboard by effectively saying that he is obeying the orders of the Assayer too, but the introduction of a second Assayer, Titus Perdition, could complicate that . . .

Star Wars: Heir to the Sith (Part 1) (#Wattys2018 shortlist)Where stories live. Discover now