Queen of Kuat: Chapter 6 – Slaughter

This chapter was probably the first one to be completed, and one of the least edited in the second draft. Mostly thanks to RULES OF NATURE

Some disturbing violence/gore in this one fyi.

Also Yllamse suggested some dialogue. She knows where it is. :3

I’ve been playing original DOOM! It’s a lot of fun!

Chapter 5: Loyalty

 

Chapter 6: Slaughter

She woke late in the night, about an hour before she was supposed to, a feeling of unease permeating her mind. She lay still for a moment, trying to catalogue it. It wasn’t the… the baby, she supposed she should call it a baby now, since she had learned of and acknowledged its presence. No, that was fine. Something was missing, somewhere, an acute but distant sense of loss that she couldn’t yet identify…

She slipped out of bed in the pitch darkness, unable to lie still; she had to vent her unease with movement. She didn’t turn on any lights, letting Quinn sleep, padding back and forth almost silently, her feet cold on the metal floor.

She heard and felt him stir, sit up in the darkness. “A-Akuliina?” His voice was deep and croaky with sleep, alluring, yet she couldn’t be distracted. “What’s wrong?”

“I don’t know,” she said softly. “Something has happened, I think. But I don’t know what it is.” Suddenly, she looked towards the comm, just before it began to go off. Summoning a robe to her, she slipped it on and lit some of the lights before answering it. “Yes?”

“Forgive me for waking you, my lord,” said her comms officer, Hayna, “but there’s an urgent call incoming from Countess Mareet.”

“My mother?” she asked softly, then gasped. “My father- it’s him.”

She felt Quinn’s anxious curiosity, but he stayed quiet. Hayna wasn’t in on their secret. “Put her through immediately.” She did not dismiss him; he should probably know what happened as well.

The holocomm lit up, and her mother’s face appeared before her, eyes wide, hair disheveled, her breath seething through her teeth. “Akuliina!”

“Mother! What’s happened?”

“Your father- your father’s dead. Lord Calamit-”

“I… I felt it. Did Lord Calamit do something to him?” Her heart raced, and involuntarily she bared her teeth. “I’ll kill him. What did he do? What happened?” Quinn came up behind her and put a supportive arm around her, though she really didn’t need it.

“A few minutes ago, he bombed Yrington. He claimed Evryn’s apprentice was raising an army there. But your father was there as well, and now – now he-” She turned away slightly, making a sharp, furious gesture, and Akuliina caught sight and sound of something smashing in the background.

“I see,” Akuliina said acidly. She gave a smile that was mostly snarl. With the rumours of her death, Calamit was most likely trying to eliminate her entire family to tighten his rule on Kuat even further. “I trust I can count on your assistance when I arrive to crush them both.”

“Come soon,” Mareet hissed. “Or I may act without you.” The holocomm shut off.

Akuliina turned away, bringing the lights all the way up. “It would probably make a better impression to be dressed before calling Calamit, I believe.” She shed the robe and pulled her grey dress from the closet.

“You’re going to call him? What for?” Quinn began to dress as well.

“I’d like to know if he’s aware of what he’s done. He must be made fully cognizant of the colossal mistake he’s made.” She glanced at him. “You can go back to bed, if you like. I’ll do it in the conference room.”

“I’d like to be there.” He had no reason to, as far as she knew, and she hoped he wouldn’t try to temper her rage that was currently at a barely-contained simmer.

She leant over her make-up table and began the somewhat lengthy process of applying her foundation, contouring, eyeshadow, and scarlet lipstick. “Do as you wish. I think you ought to go fetch the rest of the fleet personally and have them rendezvous with the Golden Conqueror near Kuat…” Quinn had suggested that with Trandosha under Aristheron’s control, the time for a full-frontal assault with all of her forces might have come. She had sent a summons to them, but hadn’t decided to send Quinn before. But now she wanted someone she trusted to bring them to her. She was acquainted the the ships’ captains, but they weren’t Quinn.

“Not Balmorra.”

“Why not Balmorra? You won’t be going down to the surface.” She raised an eyebrow at him, then registered he’d been attempting to use levity. “Not the time, dear.” She kissed the air distractedly in his general direction and began to make her way towards the door, tugging her gloves on.

“My apologies,” he murmured as he took up his place behind her in perfect formation. She could sense a lingering wish in him to show affection to her, but it was swiftly being taken over by duty and propriety.

She swept into the conference room. “Bridge, make contact with Kuat. I wish to speak with Lord Calamit.”

It took a long time to connect, and an even longer time for Hayna to work her way through operators and intermediaries, explaining each time that the Emperor’s Wrath wished to speak with Lord Calamit.

“He’s stalling,” she muttered, pacing like a caged manka cat, fingers twitching with the desire to do something, kill something. “Or else my mother already got him on the line.”

Quinn was stock still in contrast to her prowling, eyes straight ahead. “If I’d killed your father, my lady, I’d be afraid to speak to you as well.”

She gave him a rueful half-smile, then whirled back to her place as the holocomm flickered. “Calamit!”

“Young Lady Volkova,” said the old man, bowing to her. She didn’t miss the subtle insult at not calling her ‘Lord’ or ‘Wrath’. “I’m pleased to know of your survival, but I’m very busy, as you may imagine. How may I serve you-?”

She slammed her fist on the table, her emotions beginning to boil over out of her control. “Do you have any idea what you’ve done? Answer me!” It wasn’t a good impression, and she knew it, and she couldn’t stop it. She wanted to slap the smug complacency off Calamit’s face; slap his head off his spine while she was at it.

“I’m afraid I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“You killed my father,” she spat. “Don’t even try to deny it, I know what you have done!”

“I have no intention of killing Count Volkov. How did this come to pass?”

“Your lies will not save you, Calamit. When you bombed Yrington, he was present as well.”

“Dear, dear.” Calamit shook his head mock-sympathetically. “I had thought I was only eliminating Lord Kadolan’s chief apprentice. Are you quite sure?”

“I felt it,” she said, fists clenched until she felt her knuckles strain. “I felt his death in the Force! You’re an idiot, Calamit. Here I was, going to rid you of Evryn for the insults he did to me, and now, whether out of negligence or calculation, you’ve gone and given me reason to destroy you as well.”

Calamit’s wrinkled face darkened. “Have a care, Lady Volkova. You may answer only to the Emperor and the Dark Council, but I don’t take kindly to threats.”

He was treating her like a child, treating her exactly the same way he’d treated her ten years ago when she was first introduced to him, and her vision almost whited out with fury. “I don’t take kindly to having my kills stolen,” she snarled. “Killing my father was my duty, and mine alone. I don’t answer to the Dark Council. I don’t answer to you. Both you and Evryn will learn what it means to face the Wrath of the Emperor.”

“The Emperor is my only lord and master,” Calamit said. “I did not kill his father; it is not his wrath I will weather. Good day, Lady Volkova.” The holocomm shut off and for a long moment she was dangerously still.

“You had better leave the room,” she said in a low voice to Quinn, who bowed hastily and left.

The instant the door closed behind him, she roared, and the heavy conference table ponderously tipped up and slammed against the other side of the room, leaving a deep dent. She punched the wall and was rewarded with another, smaller but deeper dent, but now her knuckles stung. Even with the Force giving her strength and protection, she’d torn through her glove and her fingers were bleeding.

The pain brought her back to herself a little. Instead of a tantrum, she needed to make a plan. She needed to plot her revenge, hold onto her anger a little longer, nurturing it inside her until she could unleash it on her targets and immolate them. She wasn’t sure what was up with her usual self-control, but she needed to contain it better.

She took a deep breath and stalked to the door. Quinn was waiting there, trying not to look deeply concerned, but she could feel it in him. She wanted to assure him she was fine, but… propriety. “Bridge. Now.”

 

Quinn was away, gone to meet the fleet partway and personally direct them to the rendezvous near Balmorra. He’d come up with a tentative plan of action for her invasion of Kuat, no mean proposition considering it was one of the most valuable planets in the Empire and her fleet, while not insubstantial, was tiny compared to the extent of the shipyards and their defenses and the rival fleets no doubt warring at this very instant.

She would prefer to avoid collateral damage to her own nation, but to truly prove her dominance, it was almost certainly inevitable, and holding back would be tantamount to suicide. She trusted Quinn’s cleverness would find a way while she wreaked her own havoc on the Sith personally. A conventional counsel would be to let the kaggath run its course and then stomp the victor, but what would that prove? They both had to know she was their destroyer. And she had faith in him facilitating that.

Force, how was she going to reward him after this? He’d smile and bow and claim that her success was his best reward; he didn’t need a raise; she wasn’t in charge of his promotions; either of the former or a commendation for assaulting an Imperial world would be awkward; she already slept with him… Perhaps she’d suggest bondage and let him top in that situation for once. She only let him tie her up a handful of times ever; it wasn’t that it didn’t arouse her, but she had panicked the first time at being completely immobile – the only time she’d used the ridiculous safeword he’d come up with.

In the meantime, she’d have to do without him for several days, sending the Golden Conqueror’s scout vessels to monitor the kaggath on Kuat until, reunited, they could descend on the planet and destroy its squabbling leadership. Kaggaths were so stupid. When she was in command, she’d delegate Jaesa to deal with that sort of nonsense. All the weaknesses revealed by this conflict, the infighting destroying Imperial resources, would be pared away once she had eliminated her opposition.

She almost had to laugh. Both Evryn and Calamit had undoubtedly attacked her in an attempt to keep her out of their fight, to prevent her from challenging their rival claims to Kuat’s rule. Instead, it had done the opposite and brought her down upon them. And her fleet, and what was left of the Volkov forces under her mother’s command, and for good measure she’d summoned Agent Elshinix from Dromund Kaas; the Chiss had responded reluctantly but obediently.

They had only traveled a day from Nar Shaddaa. Everything was running smoothly, even in Quinn’s absence. The Golden Conqueror’s captain, Captain Cheyomar, was efficient and unobtrusive. Quinn had only recommended the best for her flagship, after all. She was on the bridge, watching the swirl of hyperspace idly.

Suddenly she felt a tug at her mind, some foreign feeling of alarm. She looked around quickly, but there was no alarm on the bridge, no sudden hush or hum of voices.

“My lord?” Captain Cheyomar asked, approaching her at a respectful distance.

“Excuse me a moment,” she said politely, and walked swiftly to the elevator to her quarters.

Was it Jaesa’s feelings? No. Was it her mother? That was more difficult to determine, but no, it did not seem that way either. Her mother’s Force-bond was still greatly distraught but without sudden variation. She walked into her quarters, hardly seeing them, concentrating on that increasingly intense feeling.

Quinn? How could she be feeling Quinn? He wasn’t Force-sensitive-

But one didn’t need to be Force-sensitive to have a Force-bond with someone close. The only requirements were to be alive. And he was the father of the child she carried inside her. No one was closer. The only surprise should have been that she hadn’t noticed this bond before.

She shouldn’t dawdle musing through the ramifications of the bond. Why was he so disturbed? What was happening? Had the fleet been attacked? Had he been attacked on the way to the fleet?

The latter, the Force told her impatiently. By whom? she demanded. And what was she supposed to do with this information, anyway? Quinn could take care of himself-

Quinn’s sense fell unconscious. Not good. What was she going to do about this?

First things first. She headed back up to the bridge, striding briskly to the helm. “Captain, drop the ship out of hyperspace immediately.”

Cheyomar looked at her, uncomprehending, but nodded immediately. “Helm, bring us out of hyperspace.” As the blue swirl wound down and streaks resolved back into stars, he looked back to her again.

She needed to be decisive, even though she had no idea what the right course of action was. Where had Quinn been? Who had attacked him? He wasn’t dead; what did they want with him? Should she wait to see if he could recover himself?

Waiting was for Jedi. “We’re not going to Kuat yet. Set course for the rest of the fleet.”

“Yes, my lord.” Quinn had been heading in that direction. She could provide assistance once she learned more of his situation. In the meantime… she had to restrain her impatience and worry, hide it from the bridge crew. She settled into her command chair and sipped water. She wanted alcohol, but even a Sith could become inebriated and useless.

 

Six hours went by. She waited as calmly as she could, trying to feel Quinn’s presence. He was awake now, she knew that much.

“My lord!” Hayna, the comms officer, spoke up. “We’re being pinged for an incoming message.”

“I’ll take the message,” Akuliina said, and the ship left hyperspace again for better transmission. She stood and made her way forward. “Who is it?”

Lord Calamit appeared in hologram before her. She glared with a snarl on her lips. “If you’re here to apologize, you have one chance to convince me of your sincerity.”

“Hardly,” Calamit said. “I’m here to issue a warning.”

“Second transmission incoming,” Hayna said.

“Put it up,” Akuliina ordered, her stomach flipping with misgiving.

The second image was of a Sith Lord she did not know, not quite as old as Calamit. “Greetings, my lord. I am Trathinus, apprentice of Calamit.”

“I don’t care,” Akuliina said.

The apprentice smiled, and Calamit smiled, and she wanted to stab both of them. “I think you will care very much.” He waved a hand and the holocam panned over to reveal… Quinn, chained by his wrists over his head, looking much the worse for wear. She frowned and made a hand gesture behind her back to Hayna.

“I’ve made the observation that your Commodore is exceptionally useful to you,” Calamit said. “In fact, some might assume he is the mainstay of your power. So I have deprived you of him. If you are to face me, you will do so without his aid. In the meantime, we’ll show him the best hospitality we can.”

Akuliina let her head tilt just slightly, her almost-non-reaction displaying her contempt. “Your reach may be long, but your foolishness is longer. My power is mine and I will not bow to clumsy bullying. Did you really think I’d be intimidated by kidnapping my subordinate? Try my apprentice next time and I might take you seriously.” Jaesa would probably even find it fun, much more fun than Quinn did.

Calamit frowned. “You know well Kuat’s defenses, and even with your fleet you cannot hope to challenge me, not without your prize strategist.”

Quinn’s eyes opened and he looked straight at the holocam. “My apologies, my lord. I take full responsibility for this failure.”

“You were not given leave to speak,” Trathinus snapped, raising a hand, and Quinn was blasted with Force-lightning, falling limp in his chains and writhing. Akuliina choked down an angry gasp; of course they’d torture him, try to get a reaction from her.

It wasn’t Quinn’s responsibility. She’d sent him out alone in a hyperspace-capable gunship, not quite defenceless, but vulnerable enough. She’d have to… she’d have to apologize when she got him back. He might deny it, but she wasn’t going to let him be an idiot on his own.

“My l-lord has given me standing permission to s-speak, and she outranks you,” Quinn gasped, and she smirked.

“Your lord is not here, and you show an appalling lack of respect for your betters,” Trathinus said, and blasted him again. Akuliina tried not to let her snarl break her expression, though she was clenching her teeth. The more Trathinus and Calamit knew it affected her, the more they’d do it. And she could feel it, too, through this Force-bond she’d only just become aware of, feel that he was suffering on her behalf.

“Is there some point to this?” she said, crossing her arms coldly. “You think I really care if one of my minions is in pain? I only care that you have the gall to challenge me directly after I’ve threatened you for challenging me indirectly.”

“And you have the gall to interfere in a sacred kaggath-” Calamit began.

Quinn was raising his head, slowly and painfully. “P-please,” he said, but even though the pain it sounded more scornful than pleading. “The Emp-p-peror’s Wrath is my commander. You t-truly think I fear you?” Oh Force, she’d married him for a reason.

Trathinus zapped him again, and again he writhed helplessly while her heart burned for him. “You will learn fear, and respect for all Sith, not only your little master.”

“D-don’t m-m-make m-me repeat m-myself,” Quinn hissed, almost inaudible, still defiant. “It’s irrit-t-tating.”

“Well, this is getting boring,” Akuliina said. She’d have to commend him later. “Did you have anything useful to say, Calamit?”

“Stay away from Kuat, or the suffering he will undergo will increase ten-fold.”

“No, I didn’t think you did.” She made eye contact casually with Hayna, who nodded, and then she looked back at Calamit. “You’re a fool. I don’t have time for your posturing. You were already marked for destruction.” She gestured without even offering a goodbye, and Hayna cut the channel.

“I have his location, my lord,” Hayna said eagerly. So did Akuliina, but numeric coordinates were more helpful to her navigator than feelings in the Force.

“Set course at once,” Akuliina ordered. “Cannons, be ready to fire on shield generators and turret emplacements the moment we emerge from hyperspace. I will deal with the rest… personally.”

 

It had been a day or two since Trathinus had called Akuliina, and every few hours the Sith lord came down to the cells to zap him with lightning. Just for fun, it seemed. Quinn took it with gritted teeth. Either Akuliina was coming for him, right into a trap, or she was going after Calamit directly, and she didn’t have the resources to win that conflict yet. He had to resist no matter what; if she was coming for him, he wouldn’t have too long to wait, hopefully, and if she was not… he had to keep his wits about him, to effect an escape and make his way back to her side before she got in too much trouble.

It had been a quiet period… but now alarms began to blare in the distance, and simultaneous hope and apprehension swept through him. Emperor’s bones. She’d come for him. And undoubtedly she was furious beyond reason. Now that this path was becoming a reality, he wondered who he should be most afraid for, her, himself, or the Imperial soldiers who occupied the rest of this place, wherever it was. Explosions shook the ground; she was already bombarding its defenses.

As Lord Trathinus entered the cell block and approached his cell, he decided he had enough to be afraid for himself. His words earlier had only partly been true. Things were evolving, and none of it was under his control.

 

The coordinates led to a small secret base on the side of a large asteroid in a largely empty system. Once, it might have been used to fight against pirates, a staging base for fighter wings and small frigates, but commerce no longer passed through this system, rendering it more-or-less useless. She was lucky that it wasn’t a larger fortification; the Golden Conqueror would be more than enough to deal with its defenses. It wasn’t designed to take on capital ships. Calamit had wanted Quinn to disappear, not surround him with impenetrable but obvious defenses. It would have worked… if not for her bond with him, that Calamit couldn’t know about, and for Hayna and her team, her talented comms officers. They were getting a raise.

One volley from the cannons destroyed the shield generators before they had time to raise the shields, as she had commanded, which meant picking off the cannon emplacements was relatively simple. She didn’t even have to send out the fighters. When the base’s ability to fight back had been reduced to sparks and whimpers, a single shuttle departed the Golden Conqueror.

The shuttle touched down in the main hangar; the air outside was still and silent except for the blaring klaxons, but she knew it was a lie; she could feel many lives in the Force. They were setting an ambush for her. Which only meant they’d be rushing to their deaths. She stood and walked deliberately to the loading ramp, emerging from darkness through the billowing steam, fixing her goal clearly in mind – find Quinn – so that even when she submerged herself in her rage, she would not forget him. Her arrival undoubtedly placed him in grave danger, and every second away from him was another second he could be killed.

She stepped into the hangar, her gaze hardened to golden durasteel, lightsabers growling in her fists, and faced a forty-man firing squad entrenched behind heavy crates, dividers, and portable ray shields. Heat rushed across her skin as her heart began to pound thunderously, and her mouth stretched in a mirthless, animalistic smile of anticipation.

She shrieked and took flight as they began to fire back, as a disciplined, unified whole at first, and when she kept coming, increasingly in desperation and panic. There was no thought in her mind other than red death; weapons, limbs, and heads tumbled away from her onslaught. She was wind, she was fire, scorching the lives she touched away into nothingness.

When every soldier lay in pieces, she came back to herself briefly. The others in her shuttle had crept down the loading ramp after her. “Vette,” she said, and her voice seemed to echo strangely in her own ears. “Lock down the hangar. Pierce, Broonmark, guard the door. No one is escaping.”

“Yep, will do,” Vette said, with a gulp.

“…Time me,” she suggested sardonically as a parting shot. She turned, allowing the red mist to consume her again, and sped through the main door to the rest of the base. Quinn, I’m coming for you.

 

“She is magnificent,” Trathinus said softly, watching Akuliina’s progress on a display of security cameras, holding Quinn casually by the throat in the Force. Quinn struggled feebly and received a jolt of electricity for his trouble. “She is truly a fine Sith, worthy of her title. But she has set herself against my master, and so…” He shrugged. “It is a great honour that my master allows me to kill her.”

Quinn coughed a weak laugh; his breath rasped in his constricted throat. “You think you can?” On the screen, Akuliina zig-zagged down another corridor, reflecting turret fire back where it came from seemingly effortlessly. This was a new level even for her, even fiercer than one time on a capital ship against two wardroids…

Calamit chuckled. “I’d hoped she wouldn’t find this place, but I am not terribly upset that she has. We’ve made some preparations against this event, Commodore. She has lost her mind to the Dark Side. She is no longer in control. She is powerful, yes – do not underestimate her, Trathinus. But she can be easily manipulated in this state.”

It was true. She herself had predicted such a thing multiple times. And he wasn’t at her side to keep her mind clear and focused. Or, she was focused… she was focused only on him, at the cost of everything else, maybe even her own life. It was all his fault…

“And I don’t think she’s even noticing her injuries,” Trathinus said, gently squeezing Quinn’s throat just in case he’d forgotten about that. “They’ll catch up to her. Probably all at once.”

“Ah, she’s arrived,” Calamit said. “Let’s greet her properly, shall we?”

“With pleasure, my lord,” Trathinus said. He lit his lightsaber and flung his arm out, the edge of the blade almost lying against Quinn’s throat. Oh Emperor, he was going to be beheaded as soon as she walked through that door.

The security door was unlocked, but as he watched, the centre began to deform inwards, towards them, until suddenly it imploded with a crash and hurtled halfway across the chamber.

She stood in the doorway, recovering from a side-kick – she’d kicked a half-metre-thick door in – with her chest heaving. The temperature in the chamber actually rose as she stalked forward, swaying drunkenly, and he felt a power exuding off her, like static electricity, tickling his skin. Her eyes were… literally glowing, and he felt shivers running down his spine; he’d never seen that before. There was no trace of anything besides hatred and fury in her face, no recognition, no mercy, teeth bared, wild as a krayt dragon. Her armour was covered in smoking burn marks, but she seemed uninjured from what he could see.

“Welcome,” Trathinus began grandly. Oh good, a monologue before he was killed. “You’ve fought valiantly to reach this place, but you-”

Akuliina shrieked, the sound echoing piercingly through the confined space, and flung a hand forwards, and Quinn found himself hurled backwards, back into an empty cell, the door of which shut and locked. Her lightsaber followed, thrown by the Force, stabbing into the lock and melting it. The only way to get him out now was to cut through the bars. He was safe… for varying definitions of safe. He struggled to get up, but he could hardly move. The torture had worn him down too much. He could only lie there and watch them.

She charged at Trathinus with her white hair flying, as Calamit watched, and Trathinus let her come, an eager and bloodthirsty grin of his own plastered on his face.

It happened almost too quickly to see. She must have triggered a pressure pad, or a motion sensor, or something – droid arms shot out of the walls and floor, the ones to restrain problem prisoners, only these ones were fast. They seized her arms; at the same time, automated turrets deployed, flame turrets, laser turrets, tranquilizer dispensers, and immediately fired. Trathinus lunged, his lightsaber poised to stab.

A hideous banshee screech echoed in the small chamber, but when he could see her again, she was not on fire, nor was she impaled, thank the Emperor. She’d flipped backwards, breaking two of the droid arms as they tried to hold on to her, and Trathinus was reeling backwards from a kick in the face, but her left shoulder appeared dislocated. She snapped the other droid arms off with a flick of her right lightsaber, then jumped backwards as more lasers fired at her. She’d been driven into cover behind a torture rack, and he heard a growl as she set her shoulder back into place.

The droid arms were out of commission, which meant the tranquilizer dispensers were useless, but the turrets were still active. How could she defeat them with lightsabers alone?

She sprang out of cover, jumping impossibly high, using a computer console to leap even higher. The turrets were moving to track her, but now she was level with them, slashing one, than the other. She was turning towards the third and fourth when Trathinus moved back on the attack with another stab.

She bent backwards, sliding under his strike, kicking him in the ankle as he overreached. He stumbled and they both scrambled to recover; her flailing lightsabers took out another turret, whether by chance or design. One flame turret and a Sith left.

Darting right as the turret went off, she put Trathinus between it and her and then charged again, backing Trathinus into the turret. The turret automatically retracted as Trathinus came closer, but then the enemy Sith sidestepped, giving it a clear line of fire… but she flung one lightsaber at it, scarlet carving whirling trails through the air, and the turret exploded like the others.

There was no change in her expression, a horrible mask of fury and hatred, but she seemed slower, just a little. She’d been hit, probably by one of the laser turrets, probably without even noticing it. All that was keeping her up was probably adrenaline and the Force. Her attacks against Trathinus were vicious but not as well coordinated as they had been, and slowly the taller Sith was gaining the upper hand, driving her into the back of the room. Quinn wanted to cry encouragement to her, but didn’t dare distract her, even if he’d had the strength.

She was right back against the wall, struggling ferociously, batting away each of Trathinus’s attacks. This might be the end… and he couldn’t look away, his heart screaming for her. He didn’t care about himself; if she fell, he would be immediately next, but without her, and her unborn child, there wasn’t much to live for. Would the Sith decapitate her, or simply stab her?

Trathinus stabbed… and missed, his lightsaber biting deep into the wall over her shoulder. Before he could withdraw, she’d slashed upwards, cutting his lightsaber in two – and most of his fingers from his hand.

Trathinus staggered back, clutching his hand. She shut off both lightsabers and her arms shot forwards, fingers curled into claws. Trathinus froze, a horrified expression on his face that told Quinn she’d caught him by the neck, a situation that gave him some grim satisfaction. Not so nice when someone does it to you, is it?

Trathinus’s boots slowly left the ground as her right hand moved upwards, tendons standing out and hand shaking slightly with the intensity of her emotion. She didn’t break his neck, like she normally would, or throttle him to death. No, instead she formed her other trembling hand into a fist and began to make a slow pulling motion. What-?

“Take a good look, Calamit,” she said in a low voice, the first words she’d spoken since she arrived. “This is what I’m going to do to you.”

Oh Emperor, he was going to vomit, as Trathinus began to scream in horror and agony. She was tearing the flesh from Trathinus’s face. Quinn turned away, rolling to face away from them, covering his ears, but he couldn’t get that image out of his head, and he couldn’t block out the screams completely.

The screaming stopped, but instead there were only awful, sickening wet rending noises. He dared to look up and saw a blood-covered skull, meat hanging down the chest of the corpse. He retched, closing his eyes, and vomited the little sustenance left in his stomach onto the floor.

“You’re next,” Akuliina hissed, and he heard a crack and a soft thump. She’d used the skull to smack the ‘end call’ button and let the body slide to the floor. Now she was – oh space – she was heading in his direction, eyes still glowing, energy still crackling around her. She lit a lightsaber to hack through the bars of the cell and stepped towards him; he crawled away backwards with the last of his strength until he found a corner. He shouldn’t fear her, she was there for him, wasn’t she? Wasn’t she…?

What if she killed him for failing so catastrophically like this?

She reached out as he looked up at her, petrified, and she touched his shoulder. The glow in her eyes faded, and she didn’t exactly relax, but she seemed more… herself again. As if he’d been a ground for the deadly current running through her. There was a flicker of humanity in her eyes now, even of relief. Then she pitched forward onto her knees, her arms wrapping around him, her face buried in his neck. “I was in time.”

“Yes,” he managed to croak out.

She drew away again, hands running over him, checking him for injury. Strangely, his body felt less painful where she touched. “Can you stand? I want to get you out of here before I finish things.”

“I’m afraid I cannot,” he admitted. She nodded, pulled his arm over her shoulder, hooked her arm around his leg, and lifted him onto her shoulders. He felt slightly ridiculous, being carried so easily by someone nearly twenty centimetres shorter than him, or maybe that was just the blood rushing to his head.

The corridors outside were quiet and still. Bodies and severed limbs littered the ground, and blaster burn marks scored the walls. Small fires guttered still in some of them. A faint haze of smoke hung in the air, already mostly filtered out by the ventilation system. There were deep careless slashes from her lightsabers everywhere, and many of the lights had been knocked out. He closed his eyes. Normally this wouldn’t bother him, but after the execution he’d just witnessed, and his stomach’s subsequent reaction to it, he couldn’t look. And they were all Imperial soldiers, too. Ostensibly they were all on the same side. Most of them were – had been – probably good men.

She let him slide to the floor in a corner. “More are coming. Don’t move.”

He couldn’t move far if he tried, watching her dart off. Dark helmets were bobbing in the distance, and then red light began to flash down the corridor towards her. And screams followed shortly after.

He strained to reach a fallen blaster pistol, but it was just out of reach. He didn’t like being defenceless, even if she was just over there, and no one was paying attention to him…

He heard a footstep from his other side and looked over. Correction: no one had been paying attention to him. There was an officer and two soldiers there now, aiming at him. But he’d just got his hands on the blaster pistol. It spat light in his shaking hand, hitting one soldier in the groin and the officer – by chance – in the chest, before they had the chance to shoot. Then Akuliina was there, appearing as if out of nowhere, the last soldier suspended and impaled on one lightsaber.

He dropped the blaster as she sheathed her sabers and bent to pick him up again.

 

She dropped him in the shuttle, where Vette immediately scanned him with a med scanner and stuck him with at least two needles of kolto, maybe more. He couldn’t tell at this point. Akuliina had disappeared again. Vette wrapped him in a blanket and let him slump against the crash harness.

She reappeared ten minutes later, Broonmark and Pierce beside her, and they lifted off.

“Twenty-eight minutes and forty-three seconds,” Vette said quietly as Akuliina settled herself in the seat beside him.

“What?” she asked.

“You said to time it,” Vette said.

“Ah. I don’t remember.”

“How many did you kill?” Pierce asked, and the Talz rumbled something that Quinn was too tired to translate.

Akuliina shrugged. “I lost count. All of them.”

“All of them?” he forced through his sluggish mouth. From what he’d seen of the base, it held maybe two hundred personnel. She’d killed all of them? In twenty-nine minutes, rounded up?

She looked over at him, eyes cool and unapologetic. “Calamit needed to know his mistake, Commodore. He needed to be burned, hard and fast. Others will know of it, and will forebear to challenge me.” Or would criticize her ruthless slaughter, that she herself normally spoke out against…

Vette opened her mouth to say something, then shut it again, and silence fell in the shuttle.

 

After she’d seen Quinn off to medbay, she returned to the bridge. “Guns, fire at will. I want the entire base destroyed. I want the entire asteroid turned into dust.” She thought for a moment. “A week’s pay to the man who destroys the most rocks larger than a fighter.” They had computers. They could calculate it.

This incentive had effect. The space between her ship and the asteroid lit up with bright green, pouring immense energy into the wreck of the base. Anything left to explode exploded, and then they settled in to the task of cracking the asteroid itself.

Quinn wouldn’t understand. She’d needed that catharsis, needed an outlet for the blind unthinking rage that had consumed her after his capture. Her father’s death had angered her, but Quinn was hers, body and soul, and no one would touch him. If she’d waited for vengeance until she found Calamit, she thought she might actually go mad. Only the sea of death that washed over her, feeling each life-force torn from its body and slipping away into the ether, had quieted her bloodlust for now. She could focus again.

He wouldn’t understand. And she regretted that he wouldn’t. But he was safe now and that was all that mattered.

She didn’t leave the bridge until there was nothing left.

 

Chapter 7 – Outnumbered

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