Chapter 57: "The promise I ask of you. Will you make it?"

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"E-Ella? Is that really you?" Queen Myr's voice was soft and subdued, the voice of someone who hardly dared to hope.

"I'm here! It's me!"

"Oh you're alive! Thank goodness." She held back sobs of relief. Sarn gave a slight laugh.

"If you surrender yourself, princess, your parents shall live. They will remain prisoners, but they shall live nonetheless."

"And our people?" Ella asked.

"The Onslaught has already started to vent its engines. It cannot be stopped."

Ella glanced toward the Star Destroyer, now level with them but some miles distant. The atmosphere behind the engines was hazy. As she watched it was tinged with a purple miasma that seemed to grow in intensity.

"He's doing it!" Chip said. "He really is doing it."

"Now Ella," Queen Myr spoke again, a firmness in her voice that Ella knew meant there was to be no further discussion. "You will promise me one thing. Both your father and I love you very dearly, and we have done our best to educate you for a future that perhaps you are only just beginning to perceive. Some of those lessons you did not understand at the time. I am sorry you had to endure those, but one day you will discover their value. To my people, I ask for your forgiveness. We tried to be a beacon in a dark galaxy. A place of mercy and compassion, where through our example we could bring about change for the better. Today, on the very day that the prime architects of Empire have perished, we must suffer too, due to the injustices of a single man. Commodore Sarn. You will live the remainder of your life hunted for the criminal you are. And your officers too. If they collude with you in the violation of my planet, they will be declared outlaws."

"Amusing words," Sarn said, but with an undercurrent of anger. "Well Princess Ella, now is the time for you to decide. What will it be?"

"M-my queen?" Ella stammered. She blinked and when she opened her eyes again the blackness of space greeted her as the Nova left the atmosphere.

"Yes dear. The promise I ask of you. Will you make it?"

"I . . ." She shook her head, a range of emotions crushing her. "Yes!"

"Very well. Then leave! Go. Now. You must–"

The sound of a violent 'slap' sounded.

"Mother!" Ella screamed.

"Is this how great your Empire has become, Commodore?" Myr said angrily. "That you strike defenceless women and savage refugees? If you weren't so contemptible I would pity you! Palpatine is gone! Vader too. The Empire is dead but you haven't realised it yet. Look at me! Look at me you cowards!"

"Restrain her!" Sarn barked.

"You call yourself officers?" Myre yelled. "One day, justice will come for you, for what you have done to my world and countless others!"

"Take her to the airlock," Sarn said. "Throw her into space. The last thing she will see as her royal blood boils will be her home world in the beginning of its long agony."

"No!" Ella screamed. "N-no don't–"

"It's alright Ella!" Myr said, suddenly calm. "It's alright. I will go. But you just keep your promise. Leave Farsalt, and do it now."

Ella collapsed at the dashboard and wept.

"Goodbye, my dear."

The communication closed.

"Mother?" Ella whispered. "Are you there?"

Salpantor put his hand on her shoulder and kept it there. Cor moved in behind her and hugged her tightly.

"Poor child," she said. "Poor, poor child."

"We have to make the jump to light speed," Chip said quietly. "The hyperspace coil was knocked about but it seems undamaged. I've asked the Nav computer to calculate a short hop of only a few light years. We can come out of hyperspace then and decide where we want to go, but the immediate priority is to get us out of range of those TIEs."

Ella found herself nodding. "Do it," she said. "Do it . . ."

Salpantor set the course and then reached for the heavy lever that activated the jump. Suddenly, he paused, took Ella's hand in his own, and guided it to the lever.

"He wants you to do it," Chip said. "To show you still have control of your destiny."

Ella stared at Sal blankly, not entirely sure why it was important.

Then she knew. The wookie was offering her the choice. Everything that followed would be up to her.

Ella looked through the cockpit window and back to Farsalt. The shape of the Onslaught was visible, high up in the atmosphere. But behind it, a grotesque and energetic super-heated plasma was spreading out from its engines, devouring and transmuting whatever element it came into contact with. It was spreading over the continent below with a hideous and inexorable swiftness. A growing tumour that threatened to rot the planet.

And closer to her raced the incoming TIEs, still some seconds away from being within range.

Her hand tightened around the lever.

"Farewell, mother, Jish. Farewell Farsalt. One day, I will come back. I promise you. And I'll find my sister. I'll find Tayre. That's a promise too."

She turned away from the planet she had known as home, back toward the unending blackness of space, to where every single spark of distant light was a new star, a new hope, a new future.

Ella Malquet pulled the lever back, and those stars became streaks as the Nova leapt into hyperspace.


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This is the end of Heir to the Sith, Part 1. The next instalment has already been written and will commence in the very near future (next week!).

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