“Out of my way.”
The Confederate technician nearly fell from Hotspur’s forceful push. The Quas Killam snarled; dozens of TSA mechanics, droids, and flight deck crew cleared their way out of the station’s cramped, diminutive hangar. If Hotspur could have been distracted from his rage, he might have heard the whispers comparing himself to a drunkard rancor. The Governor-Captain tapped a stub on his comlink, beginning his YT freighter’s automated pre-flight checklist. Next to it, his eyes caught sight of an all too familiar sight. With one fell swoop, Hotspur snatched a careless mechanic’s hydrospanner from the floor and hurled at the boxy shuttle next to his freighter. The tool smashed into the side of Commander Bryant’s shuttle like a stone through a steel window; which is to say, loud but somewhat ineffective to both parties. The YT-1300’s ramp hit the flight deck with a thud and the Governor-Captain strode up it. He entered the cockpit and immediately began to goose the ship forward out of the hangar. A clear voice emanated from his console.
“Freighter Loose Canon
leaving the station’s hangar bay, Governor-Captain Hotspur aboard,” interrupted Hotspur.
“Ah, do you have a flight plan, for security purposes? Sir?”
“That’s none of your business. I am going for a pleasure flight if you must know.”
“Sir, I don’t need to know that. Just an approximate route and ETA so your people can find you if they need to.”
“They won’t,” replied Hotspur, “now then, good day. Hotspur out.”
The Loose Canon
surged away from the station, nearly ramming a decrepit Z-95 which played sentry for the TSA base. Hotspur spared a glance back at the base. No-one had followed him. He rapidly entered a few codes into the freighter’s nav computer and the starship portaled into hyperspace. Lights flashed and faded into darkness in countless myriad of undescribable forms before his eyes in a light-show that seemed to last fifteen minutes before the Loose Canon
reverted into a remarkably nondescript vista of rocks. Hotspur flipped several buttons on his subspace transciever.
“Dalek, are you around?”
Ten seconds passed before a gravelly voice answered, “I am. You know the way in. So come on in if you wish.”
The Loose Canon
fluttered through the asteroid belt like a leaf on the wind. Hotspur’s scowl momentarily disappeared as he concentrated on dodging the rocks the size of his mansion back home to clouds of pebbles. Hotspur muttered to no-one in particular.
“He sure knows how to keep people at bay…”
The Loose Canon
finally broke through a cloud of meteorites, which had banged up the freighter’s shields, into the orbit of a larger asteroid nearly the size of a Strike Cruiser. He gazed across the dead gray surface of the rock, finally spotting a quartet of neon lights which illuminated the entrance to the hideout. The freighter surged towards the lights to enter a tunnel filled with darkness; even with the freighter’s external running lights on, Hotspur could only see the roughly hewn walls half the time. More alarmingly to Hotspur, the tunnel seemed to shake and shudder as he flew through it; sheets of dust rained down on the freighter and obscured his view even more. He thought it a minor miracle that he hadn’t managed to scrape the side of the corridor. A minute passed before he caught sight of two beacons ahead announcing the magcon field’s presence, and the rough hangar containing a motley assortment Headhunters and a pair of transports one trip away from the scrap heap. Hotspur glanced at the Headhunter’s colors, surprised that Quas Killam’s blue and orange color color scheme still resided on the ships’ after all of this time. He hovered over towards one of the other transforts and abruptly shut down the repulsorlifts: the Loose Canon
dropped onto the ground with a thud. His comlink buzzed.
“Nephew, you have much explaining to do.”
Hotspur nodded, “There is much to discuss.”
“Let us start with your bombardment of my base.”
Juaire Mk II-class Corvette Arconit
Four more Starflares leapt out of the Arconit
’s tubes and disappeared into the void; only for to reappear as bright flashes of light on the asteroid’s surface, and the quartet of neon lights at the entrance to the tunnel were no more. Holly Trutzig stared at the increasingly scarred surface and let out a sigh. One of the Killam on the bridge came up and leaned on the railing near her.
“It is for the better,” said the near-human, “Hotspur must go for the balance to be restored. You say what he intended to do the prisoners he captured.”
“They owe you their lives,” mumbled the Audacian woman.
“And you as well,” said Caldwell, “I do not know many people would attack their official allies for the better treatment of their enemies. I know your Confederation is honoring its agreement by turning them into the local authorities.”
“I’m still not sure that was the right thing to do,” replied Captain Trutzig, turning away from the viewport, “but-”
“The entrance tunnel has wholly collapsed,” said an officer.
“-you also fought against your own people.”
“Ah,” said the Killam, “but we are not allies. Hotspur’s family suppressed many good people when they came to power. Turned many of us into criminals. There is little lost love between us all. When he and his family leave, the monarchy will go with them. Then democracy can return to Quas Killam. It has been a long time in the coming…”
“We are receiving a message from the base.”
Holly snorted, “Patch it through to my console. Come Richard, let us go see your foe.”
The two paced over to the holo-projector to portray the two Hotspurs in their TSA flag officer uniforms. Holly’s eyes narrowed at the elder Hotspur’s sight. But Richard merely snorted in contempt. The younger Hotspur stared hard at Holly.
“You are Holly.”
The woman brushed a strand of hair from her gray-green eyes, “I am Captain Trutzig. What do you want, Governor-captain?”
“Why are you bombarding my base?”
“Why are talking to a wanted man?” countered Holly.
“Indeed, why are you?” mimicked Hotspur, “Caldwell there is a wanted for treason. Place him under arrest and cease your bombardment at once. Wait till Admiral Lucerne and the rest of the Council hear about your criminal activities. Why I bet-”
“The Admiral already knows,” stated Holly plainly, “He’s the one that had the tracking device put onto the Loose Canon at the station. If you think you carry any weight in his eyes, think again.”
“Quas Killam carries much weight in this sector-”
“You know, you’re really round and large,” scoffed Holly, “but you need a better disguise to convince me that you are all of Quas Killam. I see Caldwell, I see Howe, and I have seen a host of other people exiled or driven from their homeworld merely because they want basic rights. I am sorry sir, but anyone who kills other people who don’t agree with you, even enemy POWs, has very little weight with me.”
Hotspur’s eyes flared up. “You…you’re the one…”
“I am one of many who took them from you,” said the Confederate, “but fear not. They are safe in the joint custody of the Confederation and the Free Quas Killam movement.”
“I will avenge my soldiers’ death.”
“No-one was killed in the rescue,” corrected Trutzig, “we disabled their ships and took them into custody. According to Lucerne, they will be charged as accessories in the War Crimes trials.”
“Ha! As if you would dare try to imprison a head of state and put him on public trial. Whose law would you follow? The TSA has no laws for this. My uncle here would know better than I.”
“What he says is true,” said Caldwell, “You are not serious about putting him on trial, are you?”
“No,” replied Trutzig, “Lucerne is a bit more of a pragmatist than to start a political riot. He has sentenced you to death. I am to carry out the execution.”
Silence permeated the bridge. Caldwell and the other Killam rebels turned to stare at Trutzig. The woman weakly smiled. She ruefully shook her head.
“Normally, I don’t support a death sentence, nor would I execute such an order without a trial, either by a Confederate tribunal or a local court,” said Trutzig softly, “but you sir, are a special case. There is no court I could turn you in to for a fair trial. Your appointed judges on Quas Killam would free you in a heartbeat. If a TSA court was formed, it would as likely result in a mistrial as a conviction, and in either case, we would loose Quas Killam’s support; perhaps even go to war. If the Killam movement puts you on trial, it will divide a nation just barely formed, nor will I guess you will get an unbiased trial from the parents and offspring of those you’ve murdered and exiled. And all of these public options result in more violence and more lives spent. No, I can save hundreds, maybe even thousands, by ending you here with no witnesses. Real idealism is saving people rather than embracing sides of a black and white conflict.”
Hotspur growled, “Then I believe am I entitled to a final request.”
“What is that?”
“I want to go by firing squad. A soldier’s death,” said Hotspur, “you can give that to an old veteran, can you not?”
Caldwell nodded, “We may be rebels, but the Killam here would be honored to carry out your request.”
“No,” said Trutzig, “I’ve read your file Hotspur. Do not think that I would risk my allies or my men to first capture, and then kill you? Why risk something I do not have to? No, you will go as Lucerne pleases, though the Killam here may execute if they wish.”
The woman passed a small box over to Caldwell. The killam gently opened the lid to reveal several buttons along with a small grid with a glowing dot. Trutzig glanced up at the two Hotspurs.
“It wasn’t just a tracking beacon.”
Caldwell pressed a button. An explosion tore apart the inside of the asteroid and sent shards of rock flying in all directions. The holofeed turned to static as the transmitter on the other side disintegrated. Laser fire erupted from the Arconit as it intercepted shards of rock which came too close to the corvette. Several rocks passed through the screening fire and collided with the corvette’s shields. The ship shuddered under the impacts. Holly glanced at her console.
“There are no more life forms in the area, but just to be safe, Lieutenant, I want three spreads of Starflares in the base’s general area. If there is anything left of the base, it needs to disappear forever.”
One month later…
Lucerne Mansion, just outside Solace, Kashan
“So this is what it was like growing up,” mused Trutzig, “trapped in a stuffy museum of worlds that you never knew...”
“And never will know,” said Lucerne sadly, reflecting on Alderaan’s fate, “would you care for another glass of wine?”
“No, I think if I have any more, my father will leave Kashan out of disgust,” grinned the woman.
“If you say so.”
“How is your crew taking their leave?”
“Well,” replied the woman, “I think they’re glad to be done with mystery missions for a while.”
“It never is easy keeping people in the dark,” agreed Lucerne, “especially those whose lives depend on you, and your life depending on them. But it is better for them if they never know what truly happened on that voyage.”
“I have done nothing wrong,” stated Holly, “my hands are clean. My orders were to deliver a war criminal to his executioners, and I did that. I have saved hundreds of people’s lives in the process.”
“And have improved the life of million’s more,” said Lucerne, tapping a button on a remote.
The holo-projector lit up to display one of the Confederation’s news networks, the Contegorian News Report, depicting scenes of the new elections on Quas Killam. A Mon Calamari reporter appeared in front of the visages.
“With the disappearance of the Hotspur royal family, newly elected Prime Minister Richard Caldwell and his cabinet have championed Confederation membership to the public in a referendum. They appear to have succeeded, and for the first time in sixty years, people are turning out to vote in the referendum, or to vote in protest of it. This sharply contrasts with the sometimes brutal and authoritian rule of the previous government, in which the expression of dissent with government policies was punishable by exile, imprisonment, or in rare cases, death. Caldwell seems to be applying the golden rule here in tolerating these protesters, having been one himself a dozen years ago. The young Caldwell was exiled upon pain on death for investigating the cause of his father’s death. His father was a prominent right’s activist was disappeared shortly after the missing Governor-Captain William Hotspur took power...wait….the preliminary results are just in, with slightly over seventy percent approving Confederation membership. Just fifteen percent voted to remain independent…I have been talking to many voters today, many of who came not to vote for the Confederation membership, but for the election of their local representatives to newly restored House of Commons…”