Ahsken Lorovic was on his way to his office to review some documents when a voice from behind him called out. He turned to see his boss, ISS Master Dren Folmor. Folmor was the highest ranking official in the ISS, appointed by the Empress herself. Master of the ISS was one of the two or three most coveted positions in the entire Empire short of the throne itself.
The Imperial Secret Service was perhaps the most powerful and certainly the most feared division of the Imperial government. It was responsible for upholding the security of the Empire and identifying and neutralizing threats to that security before they could become serious. The ISS had agents in every province of the Empire, in every major city and in most minor ones. Every university, every school, every hospital, every business, every formal organization of any sort had at least one ISS agent attached to it. The ISS monitored all communication on the internet, and watched all the comings and goings of everyone in the Empire. They were omniscient. Or so they thought.
In reality, the sheer vastness of the Empire made it impossible for the ISS to be aware of everything that went on, and Fangalin had found it fairly easy to hide from them over the past few centuries. In addition, there hadn’t really been any serious threats to the Empire’s rule ever since the Nether War, and the ISS had gotten rather complacent in the subsequent centuries.
All these thoughts went through Lorovic’s head in the half-second it took him to turn and face Folmor. Physically, Lorovic and his boss couldn’t have been more different. Lorovic was tall, muscular, and clean-shaven, with a full head of close-cropped dark hair. Folmor was about a foot shorter, and so fat that he was almost perfectly circular. He was breathing heavily as if he’d been running, but in reality he was so out of shape that he breathed like that all the time. His red, round face glistened with sweat, but that too was normal for him. What little hair he had left on his head was gray and combed over, as if he thought that would hide his baldness, but the lack of hair on top of his head was more than made up for by his giant, bushy, gray mustache. Not for the first time, Lorovic wondered how this fat fool managed to rise to such a lofty position.
“Well, Lorovic,” Folmor said, still breathing heavily, “The big day is coming soon! I hope you’re ready for it?”
“Of course, sir,” Lorovic replied with a salute, “All is in readiness for the session to begin.”
“Good, good,” Folmor said, looking around as if he was distracted by something. Lorovic watched him impassively for a few minutes, and then he spoke up.
“Is there something I can help you with, sir?” he asked with a slight touch of impatience. Folmor looked surprised that Lorovic had spoken, but the expression on his face quickly turned thoughtful.
“Actually, now that you mention it, I could use your help with something,” he said slimily. “You’re a loyal servant of the Empire, aren’t you?”
“Of course, sir,” Lorovic responded, frowning. This obese moron couldn’t be on to me, he thought, Could he?
“Yes, yes, of course you are,” Folmor muttered, suddenly distracted again. He looked all around furtively, as if expecting to see spies eavesdropping all around him. He beckoned for Lorovic to lean in close, which Lorovic did while barely suppressing a disgusted grimace. “I have a small problem. You see, my contacts tell me that Senator Drahzen is likely to be chosen as the new Emperor.” He stopped, waiting for Lorovic to react to this. Lorovic stared impassively down at him, and he frowned and shook his head. “You don’t see the significance of this?” he asked irritably.
“I’m afraid not, sir,” Lorovic replied. Folmor made a disgusted noise and rolled his eyes.
“Well, Drahzen’s had it in for me for years,” Folmor said, spitting on the ground to show what he thought of that, “And I just know that if he becomes Emperor, he’s gonna demote me and reassign me to some hillbilly province out on the edge of space. So you can see that it would really not be in my best interest for him to be elected.”
“I can see that, sir,” Lorovic said blandly. Folmor nodded and once again looked around distractedly while Lorovic continued. “I’m not sure what you want me to do about it though. I’m not a Senator, sir. I don’t have a vote.”
“No, no, of course not,” Folmor said, “But as Director of Security for the Senate, you have the power to…influence certain people to view the election my way. Anyway, I don’t really want to say more out in the open like this. And you don’t have to agree to anything now. I just want your assurance that you’ll at least listen to what I have to say later on.”
“Absolutely, sir,” Lorovic lied, “I would be happy to aid you, sir.” He managed to say that with a straight face, but on the inside, he was disgusted and appalled by what Folmor was suggesting. Manipulate the selection of the Emperor? Possibly use violence to do so? Such corruption made Lorovic feel sick to his stomach. It was because of people like Folmor that the Empire deserved what was about to happen to it.
The irony of this line of thought was lost on Lorovic, of course. In his mind, he wasn’t betraying the Empire, because he was never loyal to the Empire in the first place. Fangalin had been his master since he was born, and the only reason he joined the ISS in the first place was to further the cause of Fangalin. He wasn’t betraying anyone by blowing up the Senate Hall. He was carrying out the mission given him by those who held his true loyalty.
To be continued…