The TKV Malevolent swung slowly in space.
Patches over her hull showed signs of fraying and decay, as the grand old ship pivoted in high orbit, the viewports filled with the other ship. Impact rocks the mighty vessel, as her primary shield deflectors fell away, hurtling toward the planet. The bridge didn’t have time to hope the debris had missed the stronghold of Bastion. An explosion engulfed them, extinguished as the void of space claimed screams, smoke and flame.
Slowly, the port blade of the Malevolent tilted inward until it struck the right. Ships attempting to leave the main hangars found themselves unable to maneuver, and trapped against a hopeless tangle of wreckage. A body came to rest against the viewport of the lead ship, exploded eyes in the vacuum of space whispering of the abyss to the frightened pilot inside.
. . .
Tennin startled awake.
He was alone in his quarters. It wasn’t the first or even a rare occasion where he woke alone, but this time he desperately needed to know that Sanbei Tashiel was not on the bridge. He fumbled in the darkness for his holocom, and sent a signal that received immediate reply. His face flooded with relief, he said only, “We need to talk.”
Hours later, the core of the Hand was seated in their chambers. “Desolation’s scanners are scouring the Outer Rim for signs of the ship you described,” Electus intoned from behind his mask. “Thus far, they have revealed nothing.”
Telok leaned forward in his seat at the small council table, hands laced together. Tazmi looked toward him with slight concern. He didn’t rattle easily.
“Well,” Tori’av’ane said, checking the readouts as she lounged against the bulkhead, “the ship you described definitely fits the description of a Zakuulan vessel.” She gestured toward the table as she transferred the image she had been working on. “An Imperator-Class scout, by appearances.”
Xunxhim shook his head. “Lunacy,” he declared.
“Lunacy would be ignoring this vision,” Tennin warned.
The Rattataki persisted, “Nightmare.”
Sanbei stood before her throne. Tennin looked away immediately. Xunxhim took a full two seconds to lower his eyes and nod. “Gentlemen,” she offered quietly, “this is not the time to take petty shots at each other. We need to know whether this is an genuine threat.”
Telok shook his head. “A ship that small couldn’t threaten us with our navigational deflectors down,” he said. “Chunks of space dust would be more dangerous.”
“They don’t need to destroy us,” Tennin said finally. “…only delay us.”
Sanbei spread her hands in invitation. “Let’s assume for a moment that this is a vision,” she said, and she nodded toward Xunxhim before he could object. “Let’s also assume that this ship has the potential to slow us down, even cripple us.”
She had walked down the throne steps to the small council table.
“How do we stop them?”
The room was silent for a time. Then everyone started talking. They talked long into the night, and after a while Tennin looked up to notice that San, returning to her throne, had fallen fast asleep. When he looked back toward the table, Xunxhim was staring at him.
He offered a rare smile. “She trusts us to handle this,” he said quietly. “Come.”
Xunxhim led them out of the council chamber, and while the guards looked on they began to form a plan to save themselves from a threat they could not see… that was coming… they knew not when. All the while, Xunxhim wondered why he had not received such a vision, almost enough to dismiss it.
. . .
Xeetai shook her head. “We are not running away to Rattatak!” she decided.
“No,” Xunxhim said, raising a hand. “We are returning to attend our children.” At her hangdog look, he added, “We have new Sith to train, after all, and they may well be among them.”
Xeetai finally nodded, and relented.
“This is the right choice. You’ll see.”
Xeetai was on her way to the hangar, while her guards prepared to assume their stations without their leader for the second time. “Why?”
“Because if the end does come, we shall have the very best view.” The doors began to close as Xunxhim concluded, “Far away.”