Wellin Votara approached Trel Solum the next day about moving in with him. Solum seemed enthusiastic about the idea, but Votara still worried that Solum was really an Imperial agent. But, if that was the case, it was too late to do anything about it. Votara expected that if Solum was an Imperial agent, he would wait and see if Votara led him to any other worshipers of the Dark Presence, so Solum would have to prove his loyalty to the Presence before Votara would try to recruit any. If Solum was an Imperial agent, Votara was the only one he would snare.
Over the next few weeks, Votara slowly revealed as much of his plan as he had figured out. Solum continued to act interested, and even added suggestions to improve the plan. Votara felt like he could speak freely in Solum’s apartment. Solum had been born and raised in the Empire, and as far as Votara could tell, had never given the Empire any reason to doubt him. The arm of the Imperial Secret Service was long, but they couldn’t monitor every single person in the entire galaxy.
Votara did his best to avoid Felnen. He went to his foreman and asked to be transferred to a different crew than Felnen. The foreman seemed a little surprised, but didn’t challenge Votara’s request. In the mines, you had to be able to trust the other members of your work crew, or things could go terribly wrong. Management had no interest in making people who didn’t like each other work together.
As time went on, Votara and Solum worked to flesh out their plan, slowly getting it to the point where they felt like they could proceed. Things seemed to be going smoothly. They liked each other and worked well together. They would often spend evenings after work with their heads together in Solum’s small living room, going over ideas on tablet computers and checking the internet through an encrypted connection in order to figure out what they wanted to do. And that’s where they were one evening when someone knocked on the door.
Solum and Votara immediately went into action, picking up all of the tablets that contained their plans and hiding them in a secret compartment under the couch. With all of the potentially incriminating evidence hidden, Solum went over and looked through the peephole.
“It’s Felnen!” he whispered to Votara.
“Felnen?” Votara repeated, incredulous, “What does he want?”
“Should I let him in?” Solum asked, still whispering.
“Yeah,” Votara said, thinking fast, “He knows we’re here. There’s no point in trying to keep him out.” Solum opened the door.
“Hey, Mek,” he said, trying and failing to act like he was pleased that Felnen was there.
“Hey, Trel,” Felnen said, giving him an odd look, “Do you guys mind if I come in?”
“Oh no, not at all,” Solum said, still obviously faking enthusiasm. Felnen walked in and Solum shut the door behind him.
“Hi, Mek,” Votara said calmly.
“Hey, Wel,” Felnen replied. He hesitated, took a deep breath, and then said, “Look, I know you guys are wondering why I’m here, so I’ll just get right to the point. I know I said I’d leave you alone and let you do your thing, but I’m really worried that you’re getting to the point of no return. So, I’m here, as your friend, to plead with you two to just give up your crazy schemes and focus on the life you have.” Votara regarded him with a thoughtful look, while Solum stood behind him with a sickly grin on his face.
“I have to say,” Votara said slowly, “that I really appreciate the concern you’ve shown for us. It takes a brave man to confront his friends when he thinks they’re doing something wrong. I commend you for that, Mek.” Felnen brightened slightly.
“Really?” he said, “So you’ll give up your plans and settle in to your new life here?”
“Well, I’ll have to think about it,” Votara said, “but you make a persuasive argument. After all, this plan probably isn’t going anywhere. How could a couple of miners on a backwater planet far from the core overthrow the entire Empire? I probably should just embrace my new life.” Solum’s jaw dropped, and Felnen broke into a grin.
“Hey, that’s better than I expected,” he said cheerfully, “Cool. So, do you wanna go down to the pub for a few drinks?” Votara shook his head.
“No, I think I need to stay here and talk things over with Trel,” Votara said, “But thanks for the offer. Maybe another night.” Felnen wilted slightly, but continued smiling.
“Okay, well, I’ll get going then,” he said, “I hope you guys have a good talk.” Solum and Votara said their goodbyes, and then Felnen walked out the door and Solum closed the door behind him. Almost as soon as the door was closed, Solum whirled around and glared at Votara.
“What was that all about?” he said angrily, “You would betray everything we’re working for just like that? I’ve committed myself to the Dark Presence and I’ve been preparing to sacrifice the only life I’ve ever known, and now I’m supposed to just give that up? What are you doing to me?” Votara gave Solum an irritated look.
“Don’t be ridiculous,” he snapped, “Of course I’m not betraying anything. I just said that to get Felnen off our back. How do you think he would have reacted if I’d said ‘no, we are committed to bringing down the Empire’?” Solum frowned and thought about that for a second.
“I suppose you’re right,” he said with a sigh, “I hate to lie to him though. I wish we could get him on our side.” Votara shook his head.
“He’s too committed to the Empire now,” he said sadly, “We’re not going to be able to get him to join us. In fact, I think we’re going to have to kill him.”
To be continued…