Standing in front of the Imperial Council and being sentenced for the assassination of the crown prince wasn’t one of my best moments. Sure I’ve made a few poor choices in life. I may even regret more than a handful of those decisions. Still, I never lingered on my mistakes since I always thought I’d have time to do things right. Damn, I was wrong. My unlimited chance cards? Revoked. A redo button? Nope. Nonexistent. And still I couldn’t bring myself to care. I chose my path with confidence. So what’s the point of spilling tears over the bridges I’ve burnt? I committed to the deed. Now I gotta own it.

A single chime rang through the court, followed by a smooth robotic voice.

“Case number 7-2-3-3-0-0-1. This hearing is now in session.”

A second chime signaled the end of the announcement. Councilor Aldis Steelheart rose with the grandeur of a holy priest–all shiny and smug–and swaggered his way until he stood in front of me. “Triton Ravenheart, by Order of the Imperial Council and on behalf of our Esteemed Empire, we have found you guilty of treason. Have you anything to say?”

“Yeah, I do actually.”

My eyes found the two large telecast monitors which hung behind the judge’s bench. One displayed live feed of the trial. Another screen taunted me with the faces of my colleagues as they waited in the audience chamber. In that moment, I almost broke. Temptation to beg for forgiveness almost brought me to my knees. Almost.

Each of my teammates wore varying expressions ranging from disbelief to fear. But Zoya? Zoya was different. Anger simmered in her fathomless eyes. I’d like to think her wrath was directed at someone else, but our last encounter left daggers in both our hearts. She’d given me her trust, and not only had I betrayed her, I blatantly disregarded the integrity of our purpose as representatives of the Guard. My job was simple.

Safeguard the citizens. Protect my squadron. Defend the throne.

I failed on all accounts.

I turned my attention back to Councilor Stick-Up-His-Ass. “I hate you, you know that Aldis? You better make sure that whatever you do to me is permanent, because if you screw this up, next time I’ll make sure I burn this whole empire to the ground.”

“Hmph. As arrogant as ever. That’s too bad. Even though you seem to loathe me, I was rather fond of you. You had so much potential. Be that as it may, you have committed an unforgivable crime against the throne, therefore tomorrow at dawn, you will forfeit your life. May the spirits of the founding fathers of the prime planets forgive you because the esteemed royals of the Imperial Throne never will.”

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