Chapter 51: "One of you will die today."

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The figure lifted its face.

"You!" Ella gasped. "I thought you were dead!"

Lady Jish gave Ella a slight smile.

"With the Empire here, it was best to exaggerate my injuries," she said. "But you have set things in motion, Ella, that can't now be undone. There is no benefit in concealment now." She stared past Ella to Mahon. "Who are you?"

Mahon took a second before answering.

"I am Assayer Mahon. Apprentice to Titus Perdition, heir to the Sith."

Jish took a few steps forward. She paused and lowered her hood.

"An Assayer? I have heard rumours of you. I thought the Inquisition had been disbanded, shortly before the Miracle of Yavin? Or was it after the Lothal Ulcer?"

"Both are a travesty to history." Mahon advanced slowly, looking from Ella to Jish and back again with swift glances, careful never to lose sight of either of them.

Ella stepped to her left, to separate her from Jish, to make it harder for Mahon to keep them both in sight.

"The original Inquisition was disbanded after its failures," Mahon said. "But Yavin changed that. It proved to the Emperor and Lord Vader that there was still a need for people like us. After all, there are still people like you."

Several figures moved in behind Jish.

"Cor! You're alive!" Lance yelled as the familiar bird-like alien emerged, standing next to Chip. Behind them, and slightly insecure, was the Imperial youth that Ella had rescued from the interrogation droid, unarmed. In the blue sky beyond, Ella saw burning wreckage falling to the ground, and from the horizon she could make out the shape of a squad of TIE Bombers, heading toward the armoured ion cannon.

Cor raised her blaster to take aim.

"No," Lady Jish said. "I want him alive. There are too many questions that need answering."

Mahon laughed. "One of you will die today," he said. "For I have questions that need answering too, but one survivor will suffice. Now. No more talk."

Ella blinked, and in the next instance Mahon was racing toward her. She brought her electrostaff up just in time to intercept an angry slash. A bright yellow burst of energy blinded her as the weapons collided. Heated sparks leapt off her staff as it crackled with energy.

She screamed and lashed out, driving her weapon down only to feel it smash against Mahon's saber again.

"Ella!" Lady Jish shouted, suddenly beside her. Jish leapt, her foot thrust forward, her green blade slashing down to prevent Mahon from striking at her.

The heel of her boot 'thudded' into Mahon's chest.

He staggered backward with a growl, forced from attack to defence. His lightsaber marked Jish's position, but Ella cleared the blur from her eyes and saw with satisfaction that he kept half his attention on her.

"My weapon can't harm him," she told Jish. "But it can hurt him. A good hit might disable him."

She mirrored Jish's advance as they closed on Mahon.

"You are not ready for this test Ella," Jish said calmly. "You must withdraw."

"Every word of what you just said is wrong," she answered, delighting in teasing her tutor with her own words.

Before Jish could answer, Ella jumped forward, stabbing with the end of her staff, twisting at the same time in anticipation of Mahon parrying, hoping she could force his guard open long enough for Jish to strike–

Mahon leapt back instead.

Ella couldn't stop her forward momentum. She slipped forward, saw Mahon sidestep to his right, to give him a second's reprieve from Jish. Saw his blade arc toward her with her own weapon aimless.

At the very last second Jish's green blade cut the air between them.

The lightsabers struck and blazed with the heat of a star before parting.

Ella jumped back. Mahon growled.

Jish didn't speak. She continued to press Mahon back with a series of quick attacks, not attempting to match his strength but rather better his skill.

Often, their blades wouldn't even connect, but flail around one another, each seeking advantage in any connection before committing to it.

Cor ran up beside her. She took aim.

"They are moving so fast!" she muttered. "I can't risk a shot."

"Get Lance out of here!" Ella told her.

Without waiting, she ran forward in pursuit of the two blurred combatants.

Mahon spun. As his back was to Jish he tossed his saber from his right hand to his left and moved in a circle that was so quick Ella could barely comprehend the move. The red blade came in low as Mahon extended his reach, intending to cut Jish at the waist.

But her tutor jumped!

Jish made an inhuman leap which carried her far over the slashing blade, passing over Mahon himself. And as she jumped she twisted, her green lightsaber flashing down toward Mahon's shoulder.

The Assayer ducked and rolled aside, coming up to face Ella, his red blade intercepting her thrust before turning to beat off another attack from Jish.

Twice more he fought them, batting away each attack with a brutal hack before turning his attention to the other. Clumsy parries, born of desperation at battling two foes.

It was an opportunity. And Jish struck.

Ella saw the green blade slice in, wielded in a two-handed strike. Mahon was forced to parry, his blade barring the green but being pressed down beneath it, depriving him of his guard for a vital second.

"Ella!" Jish screamed. "Now!"

Ella rammed the end of her electrostaff straight into Mahon's chest.

The charge exploded with an immense 'bang!'

Mahon was thrown several yards across the elevator platform and straight into the wall behind.

He dropped to the metal platform in a heap, smoke rising from his chest, his weapon falling at his side.


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