Ahsken Lorovic stood up slowly, with his hands over his head. Shen Lodoria followed his lead. Both of them had dropped their guns on the floor. Several of the ISS officers with Dren Folmor rushed over and pushed them up against the wall and began searching through their pockets.
“Found it!” called out one of them as he pulled the detonator out of Lorovic’s coat pocket.
“Good, good,” Folmor responded, rubbing his chubby hands together, “Well, that’s one crisis taken care of. Really, Lorovic, what in the world were you thinking? Did you really think you could blow up the Senate Hall without anyone noticing? You’re either stupid or crazy. Or both.”
“How did you find out?” Lorovic said calmly. The ISS officers had let him go, but they made sure to keep their assault rifles trained on him, in case he tried anything.
“Oh, it was pretty easy, actually,” Folmor replied with a greasy chuckle, “You’ve always played the straight man around here, but you’ve never been afraid to get your hands dirty with politics when you needed to. Except in the past few days, you haven’t. You didn’t show up for our meeting about keeping Senator Drahzen off of the throne, and then I heard that Drahzen asked you to keep some senators out of the Hall this morning, and you said you would, and you didn’t. That seemed odd to me, cause for all of your failings, you’ve always been a man of your word, so I decided to do some digging. I noticed that you had changed the security code on this storage closet that hasn’t been used in 500 years, so I decided to get some men together and come down here and see what was going on. It was just a happy coincidence that we arrived about the same time as you did.”
“It certainly seems as if you took care of every detail, Folmor,” Lorovic said, his voice still perfectly calm. “You did miss one important thing, though.”
“Oh yeah?” Folmor asked with a sneer, “What’s that?” Lorovic took a deep breath. He didn’t want to have to do this, but he had no choice. His orders had been crystal clear. Detonating the bomb took precedence over all other considerations, even his own life and the lives of his men. He fixed Folmor with an iron stare, and Folmor involuntarily took a step back, despite the fact that Lorovic was unarmed and he had twenty men with assault rifles pointed at him.
Suddenly, Lorovic lunged forward with his hands outstretched, acting like he was going for Folmor’s throat. Before he made it more than a few steps, several assault rifles fired, and Lorovic collapsed, his body riddled with bullets. Lodoria cried out, ran to Lorovic and knelt down beside him. He picked up Lorovic’s head and cradled it in his arms. Lorovic was still alive, but barely. His breath came in wheezing gasps, and when he opened his mouth to speak, it came out in a whisper that everybody in the room had to strain to hear.
“The important detail you missed,” he struggled to say, “is that the bomb is linked to my biometrics. The moment I die, that bomb will go off.” There was a stunned silence from the ISS officers, and then Lorovic looked right at Lodoria, who had tears streaming down his face. “Sergeant, you know what to do.” Lodoria nodded, and then, before anyone could stop him, he grasped Lorovic’s head and swiftly broke his neck.
Senator Shayban Drahzen was in a better mood now, but only slightly. Things could still go against him, and badly, but the overall vibe in the vast and extravagant Senate Hall seemed to be trending in favor of his election. Hesha Vorlan gave a long, impassioned speech about freedom and justice and other vaguely positive things, but its main effect seemed to be to bore everyone present. Another candidate, the provincial governor of Parnora, was giving a speech now, but hardly anyone was paying attention to her. Everyone there knew that the throne would be won by either Drahzen or Vorlan. The other candidates were basically just going through the motions.
Suddenly, Drahzen felt an odd sensation, a sort of warping or tearing, as if the very fabric of reality was being ripped apart. A confused look came over his face, and, looking around the Hall, he noticed that other people seemed to be sensing it as well. The governor’s speech faltered, and she fell silent, but nobody seemed to notice, as they were all looking around, trying to figure out what was going on.
The only sound in the Hall was the low rumble of thousands of people talking quietly, asking each other if they felt the same thing. Then, one by one, everyone in the Hall fell silent, as they began to realize that there was another sound, low at first but quickly growing in volume. This sound was a different kind of rumbling, almost like an earthquake, but not quite.
All of a sudden, the sound got much louder, and the walls began to crumble. Immediately, everyone in the Hall realized that something very bad was happening, and full scale panic set in. Almost everyone gathered jumped out of their seats and began scrambling for the exits, pushing and shoving and crushing each other in their desperation to escape the dying Hall.
The one exception was Shayban Drahzen. Several years ago, as a member of the Military Appropriations Committee, he had been present at a test of a Nexus rupturing bomb. The warping feeling he was experiencing right now was the same that he had felt then. It was the sensation of the Nexus, the very lifeforce of the universe, being torn apart. He hadn’t recognized it at first, because it had been so long, but once the walls started to collapse, he knew what was going on.
There was no escape. He sat stoically in his seat because there was no reason to do anything else. All he could think was that all of his hard work, all of his sweat, his tears, the people whose lives and careers he had destroyed to further his own plans, everything he had done to sit on the Imperial Throne, was for nothing. He had failed at the one great ambition of his life. He thought he would be angry about that, but strangely, in this moment, waiting for death, it didn’t really seem to matter.
To be continued…