Ahsken Lorovic was sitting on the couch in his apartment when the phone rang. He had been trying to concentrate on some documents relating to his cover job, but was having a hard time attaching any meaning or importance to them. It was several hours after he should have gone to bed, but he was having trouble sleeping, too. Any day, he would be able to commence Operation Thunderclap, and he was getting excited, but also nervous. He didn’t expect that anything would go wrong, but he knew there was no such thing as a perfect plan.
“Yes?” he said after picking up his phone.
“Director Lorovic, this is Senator Drahzen,” said the voice on the other end of the line. Lorovic rolled his eyes. Politics again.
“Yes, Senator,” he responded, “What can I do for you, sir?”
“Director, I just received word about ten minutes ago that the Empress has passed away,” Drahzen said.
“I’m sorry to hear that, sir,” Lorovic said, trying to keep the excitement out of his voice.
“Indeed,” Drahzen said, clearly not upset at all, “Now, I am aware that you will be very busy preparing your staff for tomorrow’s session, but I need you to do me a favor.” Lorovic frowned, and responded with a noncommittal grunt, which the Senator clearly took for agreement. “I’ve sent you a list of certain senators. It would be very beneficial for me if those senators were somehow barred from the Senate Hall tomorrow, even if only for a few hours. I’m sure that, as Director of Security, you would be able to come up with some way to keep them out, at least temporarily.”
“I will make sure to do that, sir,” Lorovic responded. He spoke in a neutral tone, but in reality he was disgusted and appalled by Drahzen’s tactics. For the past five years, he had been witness to all kinds of corrupt political practices, but he had never managed to get used to it.
“Very good,” Drahzen said, “Now, of course I don’t expect you to do this without getting something in return. So I promise you that, once I am Emperor, you will be promoted to Master of the ISS. Assuming, of course, that you carry out the task I’ve assigned you.”
“I understand, sir,” Lorovic said, still carefully keeping any hint of his true feelings out of his voice.
“Of course you do,” Drahzen said, “You’re a smart man.” And with that, the line went dead.
Lorovic felt like vomiting, but at the same time he felt elated. He had been witness to these sorts of crude and corrupt political practices throughout his entire career in the ISS, and they were a major part of the reason why he was convinced of the rightness of his cause. He’d never doubted his faith in the Dark Presence and the Supreme Commander, but if he’d ever had even the slightest second thought about setting off a bomb that would kill thousands of people, tactics like those used by Senator Drahzen and others dispelled those thoughts. Such corruption needed to be purged.
Besides, the Empress was dead. It was time to put Operation Thunderclap into effect. In the morning, the senators would start to gather in the Senate Hall for the first day of deliberations to choose a new Emperor. And once Lorovic was certain that all of them were in the Hall… Boom. Lorovic smiled, and then he chuckled to himself, and then his chuckles quickly turned into full-blown laughter. It was a strange sound coming from the normally stoic and reserved security officer, but he felt that it was justified, just this once.
The Senate Hall was buzzing with activity the next morning. Senator Shayban Drahzen was already in his seat, watching the rest of the senators file in with his customary small smile. Anyone looking at him sitting there would have thought he was perfectly calm and reserved, but in reality, his heart was racing and his palms were sweaty. He was both nervous and excited. Today was the beginning of the culmination of his life’s goals. He was so close to the Imperial Throne that he could almost feel its extravagant yet tasteful armrests under his hands.
He didn’t expect anything to go wrong, of course, but that didn’t mean nothing would. He was optimistic that Director Lorovic would uphold his end of their bargain. If Hesha and her closest supporters could be kept out of the Senate Hall, even for a few hours, Drahzen would be able to seize the initiative and bring her weaker supporters and those senators who were still undecided over to his side. If Lorovic was true to his word, then Drahzen would be able to surge ahead in the vote and build an insurmountable lead before Hesha would even be able to make her case. And if Lorovic didn’t come through…well, his career would be over.
Suddenly Drahzen frowned and sat up straighter. Hesha Vorlan and her cronies had just entered the Senate Hall and were making their way to their seats. He felt murderous rage boil up inside him, but a slight frown was the only indication on his face that he was upset. His hands clenched tightly as he fought to keep his countenance neutral. He would crush Lorovic. Even if he lost the election, he would make sure that Ahsken Lorovic’s career was over, plus he would throw him in prison! Nobody crossed Shayban Drahzen and got away with it.
With considerable effort, he forced himself to master his emotions. Ahsken Lorovic was a problem to be dealt with at a later date. For right now, he needed to focus on winning the election. Senator Vorlan’s presence was a problem, but he still would win the Senate’s support. In fact, having her here would actually make his ultimate victory even sweeter. It would be much more satisfying to humiliate her to her face than to do it behind her back. And once the throne was his, he could deal with all of his enemies at his leisure.
Slowly, the frown disappeared, to be replaced by the broadest smile anyone had ever seen on Senator Shayban Drahzen’s face.
To be continued…