Hull 721 arc 2 chapter 24
The bomb position was easily spotted from the air- presumably as they had been established on geometric principles, there was little point trying hard to hide it.
Fortunately, it had been set up in a place where the ground was suitable for their purposes- lumpy, hilly, uneven, thin soil over rock with many outcrops, a high horizon and lots of ready things to hide behind.
'Presumably, you weren't trying to kill the bomb squad; you must have made some kind of provision for them not to get fried- mind telling me what it was?' Aleph-1 rubbed it in.
red-1A1 was about to protest that they weren't completely irresponsible, when he realised how strong the case was that they had been. Better to stick to the facts.
'The obvious FCP is there,' pointing out a fold in the ground suitable for a forward command post, 'so there are cutouts and deflector plates on the inside of the flare to create a dead zone there, and a concussion charge to blast the guys actually working on the thing into it. Should cope well with disposal gear.'
'What precautions have you taken against the fact that, by bomb seven, you will have an experienced and probably highly motivated disposal team doing their best to spoil the surprise?'
'Why didn't I think of that?' Red-1A1 deadpanned.
'Epoxy.' Aleph-1 demanded, held out a hand.
'You're not seriously planning to glue me to a bomb just because of a joke?'
'No, I'm planning to glue you to it because your head is so full of kriff you don't know when to stop joking. Maybe four minutes to set up, that thing certainly is lethal if you're standing in the wrong place when it goes foom. What are the disposal team going to be expecting?'
The demolitions squad leader decided survival might best be served by a judicious dose of truth. Although not too much. 'Multiple teams by this point, well there has to be some kind of sting.'
'So what would you have done to them by now?' Aleph-1 said, impatience starting to show.
'Bomb One's a protection- penetrative encapsulated hallucinogen cocktail; two's an overcharged bubble machine, just to get them to expect even worse. Three releases putrescine and various other horrible things, so it'll probably be a different team which tackles bomb four.
That one's more zappy, it's a fireworks launcher- the best colour coordinated plasmas of course. Bomb five is a molecular acid- it'll dissolve everything except skin, so the team would be left bald and naked.'
'Right.' Aleph-1 said. 'After the sanity- deprived bomb squad, the unendurably smelly bomb squad, and the squad tying not to breathe in the fumes of their dissolving equipment, what next?'
'Ah. Hm. Well, bomb six is actually an antigrav generator- large area, should be enough to include the incident commander, and it carries brown note harmonics.'
'After the fourth disposal squad- and their support party and management team- have finished propelling themselves around the sky with their own crap and puke, it would probably be the fifth bomb squad that would be facing this one, then. I hope you're at least giving them a learning experience for their trouble.' The stormtrooper captain tried to maintain an even strain.
'Oh, yes, we had fun with the anti handling devices. Nested traps within traps, multiple layers of antihandling device, shells upon shells- and none of them actually connected to the trigger. Which is a comintercept unit which detonates the bomb as soon as it hears the phrase "that's the last of them" or similar on police frequencies.'
'There's a lunatic elegance to that. ' Aleph- 1 admitted. 'So we could command detonate it by doing that? Good. Hostages and negociator next to the bomb then.'
That was Aleph-3, Severian's cue, she fitted her dress uniform very well but it gave precious little protection. He was actually more worried than she was. Although she wasn't his in the man-woman sense, she was still his responsibility, and he still worried about her.
'So, here we are back at plan A.' she said. 'I distract her, you shoot her, I get the hostages into the repulsion zone and leave Pasiq behind to be incinerated by the flare, goodbye evidence. Scanner disruptor built into the bomb?'
'Good enough to foil anything the police have.' Red- 1A1 said. Fooling the Corellian Navy was another matter, but detonate that bridge when they came to it.
'I don't feel right about your doing this unarmoured.' Aleph-1 said.
'Nor do I.' Aleph-3 admitted. 'No options any more though, are there? One thing that might help preserve surprise, we must be the least likely assassination team of all time- I'm shooting with my off hand, prop the psychological wreck and the criminal idiot up against me and let's see if we can make this work.'
'She won't do anything simple like just opening fire, you're sure of that?' Red-1A1 asked, about an hour too late.
'This may be melodramatic- and putrescine, fireworks, antigravity and custard bombs aren't?- but she has an objective. She needs us alive to use as levers on the captain; needs to draw him out.' Aleph-3 pointed out. 'You, she expects to be able to cut down or mind control easily, you're irrelevant.'
'Well, thank you very much.'
'Irrelevant means you don't get shot at as much. Except possibly by me.' Aleph-1 told the demolitions squad leader. 'Stations.'
They moved to hide positions, covering the scene- the police ship had made reentry and was moving towards them now. Just beyond normal atmospheric gun range (Pasiq wasn't deviant enough to operate to the limits of the weapon rather than the doctrine), the assault transport's jammers went on full.
Pasiq was painfully aware that she had been outmanoeuvred, and left with little choice but to reach into the belly of the beast and find something to strangle before it bit her arm off.
Worse, the beast knew it too. Simply shooting them up was, apart from it being highly doubtful whether a police transport could get the better of a navy assault boat, not a path to victory- it simply meant that Lennart would kill her.
She needed them alive, needed to negociate whatever ambush they had set. I'm out of practise at this, she thought, spent too long dealing with people who think they're far more dangerous than they really are- criminals and goons and New Order functionaries.
The police shuttle's sensor picture of the area was fogging over, dissolving in random twitches of light; it was easier to guess by prediction where they would be, necessary to land visual flight rules.
None of the minions mattered. As Aleph-3 had known, Pasiq expected to be able to dominate or destroy the crew with the Force. She intended to deal with them later.
She guided the shuttle to a touchdown less than fifty metres away from the bomb.
'When the shooting starts,' Red-1A1 pointed out, 'hit that hard. We don't want it deflecting and scattering the wires of the field grid.'
'If she's betting on our reluctance to set the bomb off, we may be ahead of the game.' Aleph-1 said, then it occurred to him- 'what does the danger space look like for people not in bomb disposal suits- is it non lethal for Aleph-3 and the hostages?'
'It...might be time for a new plan.' Red-1A1 said. 'Nonlethal, well there wouldn't be much permanent damage, but the electromagnetic surge would be like sticking your head in a railgun, and the flash, ah, that could be new eyeball time.'
'You bloody lunatic. How many people were you planning to drown with your custard bomb, as a matter of interest?'
'You're the one who let her go out there. And it releases a hundred and twenty thousand tons of instant custard concentrate. Gooseberry flavour. Now stop telling me I'm an idiot and let me think, there has to be something we can do to make a difference.'
Aleph-one looked at the olive grey uniformed woman, long ponytail loose, standing next to the bomb. Why hadn't she put two and two together, the most vulnerable of all?
Same reason he hadn't. Mission. Personal hazard simply didn't matter- they weren't cloned with much of a sense of self preservation, and she was evidently willing to take the risk.
Severian, Aleph-3, certainly was aware of it, and did indeed consider it a risk worth running- she had always given herself to the service, something she did not choose to change and would not thank her team leader or captain for trying.
She was waiting as Pasiq emerged from the shuttle. Immaculately dressed as ever, powder and paint perfect, Severian wondered where Pasiq's life had gone so horribly wrong.
She looked like somebody who ought to have minions, who ought to be snapping out orders and directives from behind an extremely expensive desk, and instead here she was practically a minion herself, doing a doomed, impossible job.
Wait a moment, that might work.
'Good afternoon, Inquisitor Pasiq.' she began.
'I think I would be safer not listening to you.' Pasiq said, and wondered why she hadn't said that, and listened to herself, months ago. This situation had her danger sense spiking through the stratosphere- she had known it would though.
Her opponent, opposite number, what? Danger signals coming off of her too, a glow that did not offer good prospects. Too many wrinkles in the soul, not the smooth geometry of a light sider- but not the barbs of the dark either. Not exactly strong in the Force- but a long way from weak
'Serving two masters is a strange definition of the term "safe".' Severian pointed out. 'Two tyrannical, cruel masters at that. How long has your nose been free of your Falleen lord? Think of all you've done for him and how he treats you- is that safety? Is that love?'
'What the stang would you know about it?' Pasiq snapped. She had thought about it- very recently it had come into very sharp focus, about to be hanged levels of concentration.
Too often, the conclusion was that the only way out of her situation wasn't out, but on. Too embedded in the situation, too endangered by anything changing;
and in the dark hours, as an agent of the dark side, she had more respect- yes, unto love- for his ability to take and keep that hold over her, fair means or foul hardly mattered.
'Much more than I used to.' Severian answered Pasiq's question, knowing that she had to give something personal away to bait the hook. Trying to judge just how much was enough. Not guessing how bad things were.
'Think about what he gave you, what regard he has for you; who he trusts and who he discusses plans and options with- who is in his mind, who is in his heart? Not you, is it? Who's in charge of that relationship- can't you tell you're being used?'
'You were made in a mould, who are you to pass judgement on me?' the inquisitor said, demanded, snarling.
'A loyal servant and a vastly better recruiting sargeant for the dark side than you ever were.' Severian changed lines of attack, and by head count it was literally true, although the absolute numbers in both cases were very low. 'Did you ever succeed in serving yourself, between your two masters?'
Pasiq was in a dubious frame of mind already, and it did not include being open to criticism. She had not expected Lennart's chosen assassin to try to talk her to death. Perhaps she should have- perhaps she should stop woolgazing and seize the opportunity before her.
She reached out and seized the red- headed trooper by the throat with the force, started to choke the life out of her; Severian locked eyes- and wills- with her, ego against ego, soul against soul.
My will to live is stronger than yours, you flop, you cheap nose- slave; what the kriff have you ever done with your talent but whore it out? Severian dug her heels in and fought back.
That struck home- not so much the words as the open contempt, the disgust she felt for an inferior. It's supposed to be the other way around, Pasiq raged.
Not disrupted badly enough by it to lose her grip, although it wasn't working very well to begin with; the trooper's will was unusually- unnaturally?- strong, not nearly as easy a target as she should have been.
'You have no ground, clone; you're one of millions, identical and bred to obey- die, damn you, you worker drone.'
Severian stubbornly declined to do so; being in the blast of Pasiq's will was not the stormfront of hate the inquisitor wanted it to be; she had been up and down so much, led such a dance, that her control was uneven- stabs and spikes of pressure and fire, deflectable, sidesteppable, endurable.
'Might have worked a year ago,' she said, controlled, obviously burdened and labouring but refusing to admit it, 'before I saw myself in a living mirror and realised how far I had come.'
Everything I have done- ordered or not, will or wit or dumb routine, comes from somewhere, comes from a shifting creature who has to come together- who has come together. I am, and I will be.
'Are we so unevenly matched?' the obviously alive Severian taunted Pasiq. 'To meet in the middle I rose out of the mould- and you squandered everything you had. Minion. Have you broken your chains- where's your freedom?'
The stormtrooper was much the taller, heavier and more physically imposing of the two; Pasiq was beyond intimidation, considering some of the moments of her life, but she was probe to making up for that with life's pleasures, while she still had one to seize them with at any rate. She was out of practise in the arena of blood.
Which makes a fair match with my crispy right tit, Severian thought to herself as Pasiq gave up on the force choke, shoved her back with telekinetic power, drew her sabre- and found one in the hands of the enemy, as Aleph-1 threw it to her, one of their trophies; a green one.
Severian caught it and ignited it left- handed, wishing she had had more practising time with the Chief and trying not to let it show. 'Full circle then- intending to end as you began?'
How dare you- what the kriff do you know about that?' Pasiq snarled, then let the cold realisation flow over her, cooling down her temper- it was easier to wrap herself around that ball of cold fury that had settled around her heart, since her last day as a padawan and her first day in the service of the dark.
'We looked you up.' Severian said, as if it had actually been that easy. 'One of the first chosen for the ranks of the Inquisitorius- and still on the first rung. Few friends, no fealties owed or received. Never a lead, never a high, less than never a grand- and often and often hateful acid whispers in the shadow. When was the last time you grew?'
At this moment, no. Time for blades- drew and ignited her own lightsabre, wondered briefly why the trooper chose to fence with words, launched into the attack.
They were not an even physical match- Pasiq was shorter, less reach, out of condition; just as well, because she was seriously trying to kill Severian. No toying, no more intimidation, in with the blade to the death.
All taunting aside, the inquisitor was an accomplished swordswoman- a classically trained one, anyway. Severian was trying to provoke her out of that, into simple brutal moves unworthy of a fencer, get her angry so her anger could be used against her.
It worked to begin with; a flurry of fast brutal attacks, exactly the sort of thing a lightsabre wielder would use to hack their way through a pack of normals. She didn't count as normal any more.
A full blown Sith or close acolyte thereof would know better than this, would be much more able to turn anger into power and speed without letting it turn good bladeswomanship into frantic scrabbly hacking. She should.
It's odd, Severian thought- knowing she shouldn't as she didn't have the time for it; but I fight differently with a blade in my left hand. Slower, thinkier, more like the classical forms. Much more fluid and subconscious- instinctual in the right- in theory I test as ambidextrous, but apparently only under test conditions.
Pasiq was well aware that she was being literally off- handedly parried; that her first trial sequences of cuts and darts of the blade were met with infuriating economy of effort. That she was losing grip on her temper.
That she was trying to maim and kill someone she should be trying to take hostage- and failing. Nothing about this business made sense, which was a good indication that she was not in charge.
A dipping lunge starting for the face and aiming for the gut caught by the green blade meeting it and rolling it high and to the side out of the way- parry this, you sanctimonious cow, Pasiq thought and lunged telepathically for her opponent's mind.
Good, Severian thought as she felt the wave of hate and anger roll in, got her- not a winning move on her part. Although, the pressure mounting, doesn't mean she can't come close.
The inquisitor barraged the trooper with hostile intent, trying to force her to bow, to bend the knee, yield to the greater power in the Force; brute resistance wouldn't work although deflection might.
Insofar as thought had anything to do with it at all, she thought- not for you, or anything you stand for; used her past, thought, I am a second hand droid saleswoman- make a second hand droid saleswoman bow to you. Pulled that mask away and replaced it with another of her past identities as Pasiq started to burn through.
Pasiq was floundering, scratching at one mask, starting to beak it, immediately presented by another- I learned this trick from Jorian, Severian realised; and that was strength- who she wanted to be, to reforge herself into, would not bow. Would not.
Masks started to merge together, as Pasiq pounded Severian wondered with a spare corner of her head why the inquisitor wasn't making use of the ready-made diversion provided for her- or was that it's own answer?
Plarch was recovering from his stunning and fall, and had no idea what was going on; deLante had a better reason for being dazed and confused. They were the hostages she had come to take, and Pasiq was completely ignoring them.
Which led to the further question; would it actually be a good thing to bring them back? deLante was not at all well in the head- Plarch was just a petulant little shit. The only problem with leaving him behind would be explaining it to Rafaella and to Jorian- no, just Rafaella, he'd understand.
As long as she got no lunatic ideas into her head about trying to help, she would be tempted- no, would try to get involved somehow, and do something incredibly rash. Well, that was what the fighter wing was for.
Pounding force headache, deadlock, pressure applied and misapplied to a shifting surface- Severian broke loose with a slashing attack shaped like three quarters of a butterfly's wing, the sort of thing that weightless blades are for; Pasiq had to stop it, had to divert her attention, had to break off the mental attack.
She retaliated with a slash aimed at shoulder height, that Severian caught, Pasiq stepped out to fulcrum on the point of contact and swing the tip of her blade in;
Severian angled her blade up and in, moving the hilt out and down, twisted aside as Pasiq's red blade flashed close- then pushed outwards, able to put more muscle behind her blade than the reaching position the inquisitor was in gave her leeway to;
leant into it, pivoting on her left- forward- foot, bringing her right up form back into a pointed- toe kick that landed just below Pasiq's ribs. The inquisitor tried to get a blocking hand to it, too late, took the hit and tried to reel back.
Her blade was still trapped and it was a matter of who could recover poise first, if Severian could come to ready fast enough to lance through Pasiq's disorganised defence;
the trooper let the Inquisitor's blade go, intending to follow it in, push it past guard position and strike, pasiq out of position with the blade blocked with a wave of telekinetic power, not enough to tumble Severian away but enough to spoil the approach, make her draw back to guard stance in her turn.
Which sequence took about three heartbeats. The speed of nerves, the speed of zen; far less time than it would take to tell, and only the muscles closely involved enough to even remember, thinking during a fight being basically giving an engraved invitation to death.
Both of them had given away several so far; a properly trained swordswoman- or a gifted amateur swordsman like Chief Mirannon- would have carved either of them to pieces in seconds.
Always the way with duels, and what made them interesting and actually about the people involved; not technical perfection, but the mistakes and deficiencies, the places where ego and motive and all the wrinkles of identity get in the way of the pure craftswomanship of violence.
Probably one of the reasons the jedi were encouraged not to have a personality, and, well, if the cockups are providing the proof thereof then we are obviously both very interesting people, Severian thought.
Not that it's entirely true; a professional doesn't just let it all hang out, but concentrates on what's at stake, hides her weaknesses, uses her strengths, and does what's best to win.
Was Pasiq ever, really, a professional? Once maybe, when she was young and only served one master, perhaps- cold, sarcastic and pragmatic. Before she had been shackled by the pheromones.
I'm certainly making mistakes, but not too many- won't be too many until it's more than she is.
I see her main tactic now; get me to flicker around her, overextend, try to make use of my superior reach and length of stride, overuse them and leave myself open.
the drawback for her there is, it's true. I do have the advantage of reach and leverage, and- it is not the mark of a true professional to crow about being more professional than thou.
Wait, that can't be it, she's tried it too often, got me to spread and made moves towards the middle. Like-
Pasiq's blade dipped end on again, coming in for a lunge to the gut; Severian brought hers, infinitely sharp and glowing green, up from low on the left- intending to corkscrew round Pasiq's and hook it back the way she had came; made the touch-
the inquisitor threw a telekinetic blast of dirt and pebbles at her, aiming for the face, to blind or disorient. Crucially, she paused a beat waiting to see the results, to gloat and then move in for the kill.
Severian felt the focus shift out of the scarlet blade, half- turned, avoided most of the dirt- got hit on the nose by a rock. Daft. Reacted blindly- guessing, slashed inwards and upwards- Pasiq leapt out of the way just in time to retain a normal rib count.
The idea that you can get any kind of advantage by fighting 'dirty'- essentially a fable and a myth. The reason not to bend down and pick up a handful of dust is because it leaves the fighter in a lousy position to defend themselves, crouched over with no stance, ripe for a dropping stroke to the head, shoulders, upper back.
Telekinesis made it easier to do all sorts of evil things like that, and the remedy was to stop thinking, to press, to push Pasiq hard enough that she had no time or focus for anything other than conventional sound blade work.
The sizzle, crackle, vommm of the clashing blades would have attracted attention, if there was any to attract. Only the rest of the team, who Pasiq was also ignoring, despite the fact that Severian could spot out of the corner of her eye, Red-1 had mined the police shuttle for removal when the time came.
They were good enough shots to fire into melee, weren't they? Perhaps not the bomb squad, true. I'm holding her, I might even be winning, but not by much- she's still strong even if she is rotten to the core. A bit of help wouldn't go amiss.
A dirt bomb in reverse might be good, not to try her own trick against her but to muddy up her fine clothes, paint and perfume, see how pampered and image dependent she really is.
What might also be good is Black Prince flying close support. We never really got to nailing down this part of the plan, did we...now that was unprofessional.
Plarch gelVaaru was alive, although far short of being with it; as he groggily tried to make sense of the world again, he focused on the flickering bars of light, red and green.
His brain made a leap of logic to nowhere, on crutches, and he tried to attack, launch a diving tackle on Pasiq- she felt his sense that she was bad and evil and nasty, and while under other circumstances she might have enjoyed playing with him, too busy now.
She brought him up short with a blast of nervous energy, flooding him with invisible fire, he spasmed, twitched, stumbled and thrashed on the ground short of the inquisitor.
Pasiq turned to try that on Severian; acting on instinct, on the only thing she had to hand, the trooper moved her blade into the path of the surge of power, and it was actually the right thing to do- caught and blocked, she was about to try to bounce it back-
when Plarch managed to pull himself together enough to hit Pasiq on the backside with a thrown rock. It was a mighty labour of effort for a feeble, comically pathetic result, pushing himself off the ground, a tremendous windmilling of arms that a four year old could have done better, and the throw resulted in a soft plonk.
Which was a good description of the being himself, really. In his mind that ahd been going to work; he looked horrified that it hadn't. Pasiq glared at him; he looked to Severian.
'You're a Jedi?' he asked, looking at the green blade.
'In the dress uniform of a Warrant Officer of the Imperial Stormtrooper Corps? Yes, classic Jedi wear.' Severian had time to say.
'Why in space,' voice dripping with scorn Pasiq demanded to know, 'did you think he was worth saving?'
'On the general principle that most people mostly are.' Severian said, trying not to show how closely she agreed in this specific case. 'You could kill him if you like; I promise I won't fillet you while you're facing the wrong way. Much.'
'You're not Rafaella's mother.' gelVaaru manged to recognise things like height and hair colour, and said.
'That would involve possible death and definite time travel-' red and green clashed again- sweeping across low and short, intended to get the trooper's eyes following the blade, intending to draw the viridian blade out-
not working, Severian was watching Pasiq's muscles; at the split second crimson started to curve up and in, Severian flickered her blade up, caught it and smashed it aside, '-and the last thing I want to do is give Chief Mirannon ideas.'
'Another member of your band of deviants?' Pasiq demanded, knowing the name- it had come up somewhere, she couldn't place it.
'My fencing tutor.' Severian said, deciding that there needed to be an end to this- she couldn't keep chasing the odds until that critical error came up. Starting to move towards- to lever and bluff Pasiq away from- the safe spot.
'You learned your swordsmanship from an engineer?' Pasiq demanded.
'If you want logical analysis, method, economy, efficiency-' Severian said, and put action to the words, a series of short, darting feints and threats that drew the inquisitor far out of position, that she reacted and over- reacted to-
realised that she was far out of position, vulnerable, drew back and stepped back- into the beaten zone of the flare-bomb.
'Why do you feel no danger from this?' Pasiq said, obviously meaning the large black cylinder of the flare, actually the first time she had given any sign of even acknowledging it.
'I know it's terms.' Severian said, a carefully noncommittal reply.
I know its, but what are mine, she thought. Does Pasiq actually know anything, mean anything, that could still matter? Are there untapped contents of her head that could be useful if I disable and take, or am I in the same position that Aldrem was in- officially at any rate? Nothing else possible but rough justice?
What would I need to do to her to make a surrender and confession believable, to stop her turning on us? Who am I kidding? She's a servant of the dark side, getting her to break with her second owner and hew to the first would still leave me needing to zap her.
Which may actually be within the realms of possibility, she's not as good as she used to be- hardest part was deciding my own loyalties didn't lie there any more.
What was the old line- between martial artists of equal technique, it is the spirit which decides the winner? Full circle. She's turned almost full circle, back to as the Jedi were at the start of the troubles, sorely out of practise against another blade
Pasiq was losing- that was the only way to put it, and she knew it perfectly well. This was only the first round, too- it would be necessary to change the rules of the game.
She reached out fore the minds of the squad, found fuzzy, inchoate, half trained willpower- but willpower for all that; the inquisitor had to push at them, claw at them, batter at their resistance- and fend off her opponent at the same time.
That was the part she didn't quite get right. Severian saw her half- turn away for intended to be no more than a split second, trying to make eye contact with the demolitions team;
darted inside the Inquisitor's guard with a swift uncoiling stroke, laying the fleshy inner side of her forearm open severing muscle and tendon.
Rage and pain fuelled Pasiq's telekinetic shove, hurling the trooper back- Severian leant into it, not moving her sabre into it just to be on the safe side, braced against it; let it push her but not tumble her; Pasiq retrieved her sabre the same way, calling it to her hand.
Both off handed now, Pasiq close to tears of anger- she needed a weapon, needed someone to use as a weapon; and the bitch had given her two- boobytrapped somehow?
deLante already had clawmarks in her- one claw now, damn the red headed traitress- but she was a wreck, too badly damaged to be of any use, would have to be steered like a meat puppet- and the chances of being able to do that without being cut again were pathetic.
Throw everything into the wind and victory to the strong may have been the sith way, but...
The other one might do.
Plarch gelVaaru was an easier target- a better class of will to begin with, no buried directives compromising the foundations of his head, but less well tempered and much less well trained.
He was more vulnerable, more bendable to her will. What to do with him? He was no warrior. He was an information- head; what could she do with one of those?
Well, they were standing next to a bomb. 'Subvert that for me.' she demanded. Then wondered why Severian wasn't trying to stop her.
The stormtrooper flickered an eye at deLante, who was dithering, reeling, trying to grasp the situation, struggling through the fog of drugs; yes, I do dislike her, Severian thought, but that's not enough reason to leave her to fry.
She was in the zone anyway.
Pasiq wasn't finished yet; she tried to gain another weapon, reaching out and energising the shuttle pilot to her will. That did draw an active response; they blew him up.
Red guessed what was happening and blew the charges- motile shaped proximity protonic, deigned to blast a narrow cone of energy into a target, and vapourise it without doing too much to the people standing nearby.
Designed for use on blast doors, bunker doors, things like that. Here, it shattered the shuttle into the sky in a luminous beacon of vapour and blasted the people standing nearby with a wash of sandstorm air.
Plarch took it worst, being bowled over and tumbled away, bouncing off rocks, lying quite still for a moment before he tried, animated by another's will, to struggle to his feet, and Aleph-2 hit him with a stun bolt.
Dammit, Severian thought, a perfectly good excuse wasted. We'll have to save him now.
She turned back to target to see Pasiq, half blinded by the sandstorm- if you're going to do dirty tricks like that you may as well do it in style- slashing out where she thought Severian was, instead coming lose to- missing- deLante.
The policewoman managed to find some presence of mind, the need to do something called to her, that was the way back. She also managed to find a fragment of the hull of the shuttle that had landed nearby, and slash it across Pasiq's ankle.
Some measure of revenge for the psychic torture she had been put through; cutting tendons and nerves, missing any of the major blood vessels but enough, enough to make Pasiq stumble and shriek, to make her drop her blade towards the policewoman-
Severian, aware that she could be running to her impalement, that it would only take one fast flicker of the hand, darted in, caught Pasiq's blade as it dropped to the attack, pushed it up and twisted-
Pasiq tried to move back out of contact, but not quite fast enough. The green blade of the living force caught her across both her breasts, not biting deep enough to get to anything vital- not to a lifeform rather than a woman- but those it got.
Both of them burst and slashed open, blood and tissue scattering, some burning up in the blade, Pasiq convulsed in agony- Severian had her blade trapped, just as well.
A damnably vicious thing to do to another woman, and even Severian winced in sympathy- deLante snarled happily. Pasiq was beyond human, lost in hate and misery, more than flesh cut away.
Severian pushed her blade down while she was still uncoordinated, twisted Pasiq's blade out of her hand; Pasiq lashed out in the Force. At the bomb.
Three seconds later, Severian was lying on her back, on foam- a crash mat- with deLante face down beside her, and watching the incredible, sky- filling display, a burning rainbow of incandescent wires of the colours of heat;
Pasiq had been killed far more literally than most, the darkness destroyed by about as much light as it was physically possible to get.
Problem solved? Maybe. Spawning a hundred others.
The only purpose in my still being here is the stories and the people who come to read them. About all else, I no longer care.