Chapter One: Scout
The morning didn’t go too well. She had to finish the history of the old republic on planet Aria that she had been working on, but for some reason today Scout, who was usually an attentive student, was distracted and restless. Her tutor Katherine hadn’t wanted her to write the piece at all, but Scout had insisted – Kath wanted Scout to become a lawyer, or an interpreter, or anything in fact where she could keep her head down and not draw too much attention to who her parents were (or had been) – but all Scout Warden wanted to know about were the history and politics that reminded her who she was and where she had come from.
Katherine, the world-weary and concerned looking woman who had been her tutor since she arrived on this planet as a young girl, was in fact almost the only voice of guidance Scout had left now. At least since old Ben, the uncle who had helped her and her brother escape when the Steel Legion had taken control of the Imperium, had gone out on what he would only say was “an important mission” some seven years ago and had not returned. There had been messages, and rumours, but no firm news of him. Of course, he had wanted it that way. If he was still on this planet, he had gone into deep cover. Scout and her brother Skye, too, lived under false identities and had to keep a low profile lest the Steel Tsar should ever find them.
“The Steel Tsar is insane, power crazed and paranoid,” she wrote. “Even now he is busy strip-mining planets to build war machines that would turn the once peaceful imperium into a galactic super-state that he promises to bring democracy. But he and his descendents would rule over it for ever more, of course, and all talk of the old gods and kings that people had held dear to them before is outlawed. Now there is only the God-emperor Valkenberg Canker, The Steel Tsar…”
She was roused from her reverie by the sound of the blast door opening behind her – which was odd, since she had locked it to keep Katherine from looking over her shoulder while she worked.
She only just had time to turn the table over and get behind it before the first lasgun blast struck it. Fortunately it was an antique, made out of Venusian metal, and the blast exploding off harmlesslely. The battle droid stood in the doorway, scanning the room for signs of life, and scout already knew at that moment that Katherine was dead. She could see her bag laying out in the open, and knew that if she could recover the weapon within it she might have a chance to live. But her thoughts were already speeding three steps ahead to figuring out who had betrayed her, and how they would die, and to the safety of her brother Skye.