This was not Captain Jord’s first trip to the Deitnerkon; he’d been to Authorial Headquarters many times. But this was the first time since his son had died.
His son, Askorot, was slain on the Ophiuchus Line in glorious battle, defending the Authorium from the death-hordes from beyond the disc. The planet where he’d fallen was completely obliterated shortly thereafter. Now his grave was all the stars.
Like all Tradesmen, Captain Jord had been a soldier once, and also like all Tradesmen, his continued existence after the requisite tour of duty was merely a matter of blind luck. His first four children had all fallen on the battlefield, but they did not share Askorot’s innate ferocity. Jord had had high hopes for his youngest son, but that ferocity had not seen him through, and now Jord was childless.
The War had not relented in 4,700 years. He wanted to see who he was fighting for: the Supreme Emperor of the Authorium.
His military escorts had to be left outside the exclusion zone surrounding the Deitnerkon, leaving only his three supply freighters—the Korta, the Trevid, and the Bar Nocta—to land on the station itself. The station was balanced on a narrow precipice between the gravity wells of co-orbiting black holes, and the infalling matter glowed red, giving the appearance of two dark and bloodshot eyes gravely scrutinizing his approach. But they were blind. No one could see into the soul of Captain Jord.
The freighters landed softly on the hangar deck. A compliment of elite soldiers stood parade ready to receive them. The Deitnerkon was resupplied infrequently, and his shipment was expected. What was not expected was Captain Jord remotely taking control of the Korta and the Trevid and scuttling them on their pads. The whole station rocked while the containment systems failed to cull the fires that raged with righteous heat. An attack from without could have been easily defeated, but an attack from within was unthinkable. Captain Jord removed a quench rifle from beneath a floor panel and prepared to wreck the unfortunate souls sent to retrieve him.
But they did not come. He must have done more damage than he’d realized. He exited the Bar Nocta, but not before setting it to scuttle too, on a timer. The hangar was a portrait of the Authorium in two colors: starship fuel and blood. He shot his way into the station proper. The soldiers here were indeed elite, but unlike him, none of them had seen enough death to earn their freedom. A Tradesman is no one to trifle with. He worked his way to the center of the station, and what must be the Authorium Throne Room. It was empty.
While the captain pondered the empty throne, High Commander Tamborin cleanly severed his arms at the shoulders from behind.
“Before I continue to your legs, tell me now: why have you betrayed the Authorium?” The High Commander spoke without emotion; only strict military discipline.
Captain Jord, however, spoke with reverence. He would have a glorious death in battle now. “I wished to see the Supreme Emperor with my own eyes.”
Tamborin frowned. “Well now you have. You are a fool. There is no Supreme Emperor. There hasn’t been since the first days of War.”
Captain Jord laughed wildly until High Commander Tamborin removed his head. And then the Bar Nocta erupted.