Terrible Shadow, Part 11

Zhemeen Fortulis was very pleased. Everything was going more or less according to plan. The upper levels of the Imperial government had been eradicated, the Imperial provinces that had been most heavily penetrated were now fully under Fangalin control, and several more Imperial provinces were under siege by Fangalin forces, with the Imperial Fleet retreating at every turn. The only thing that made Fortulis less than perfectly elated was the fact that Ahsken Lorovic and his men had not survived the destruction of the Senate. Lorovic and those under him had been some of Fangalin’s best operatives, and their loss stung. But balanced against the massive success that the operation was having elsewhere, it was a sting that Fortulis was willing to accept.

“Supreme Commander Fortulis,” said the voice of his secretary over the intercom. “Shaz Vodin is here to see you.” Shaz Vodin was Fortulis’ chief strategist. She had been the primary architect behind Fangalin’s plan to deal with the Empire in the wake of the Empress’ death.

“Very well,” Fortulis responded, “Send her in.” A few seconds later, the door opened and Vodin entered with a grin on her face. She was a tall, wiry woman with wispy gray hair. She smiled too much and laughed too loud for Fortulis’ taste, but there was no denying her strategic brilliance or her devotion to the Dark Presence. And to Fortulis.

“Commander,” she said, sitting down in front of Fortulis’ desk, “There is a news report coming out of the Empire that I think you’re going to want to see.” She handed a tablet to Fortulis that was displaying a live news report coming from Selorin. Fortulis watched the report for a few minutes with a small frown on his face, and then he pulled out another tablet. Within a few seconds he had in front of him all of the information that Fangalin had about Embamor Etralis. He skimmed this report for a few minutes, and as he did, his frown was slowly replaced with a smile.

“Very interesting,” he said, “What is your take on this news?”

“My take is that this is nothing but good news for us,” Vodin said with a small grin, “I’m a little surprised that he wasn’t in the Senate Hall, but it’s just as well. I’m not sure we could have picked a better person to sit on the Imperial Throne than Embamor Etralis. In fact… He’s not working for us, is he?” Fortulis shook his head.

“Not at all,” he said, “Why do you ask?”

“Well,” said Vodin, rubbing her hands together, “this development is hugely advantageous to us, not just because of who Etralis is and what kind of Emperor he will be, but also because of the way he’s ascending to the throne.”

“What do you mean?” Fortulis asked with a frown.

“The Empire has no rules or laws to cover the situation in which they now find themselves. No one ever imagined that the entire Senate would be or could be wiped out with no Emperor on the throne. That is, of course, what we were counting on when we came up with this plan. This means that the only legal course of action they could take right now is for each province to elect new senators and have a new Senate choose an Emperor. The problem, for them, is that they’re fighting a war that they are woefully unprepared for. They need decisive leadership, and they don’t have time to wait for elections to be held and for the Senate to deliberate and choose an Emperor.”

“That’s why Etralis decided to just proclaim himself Emperor. He more or less said so in his speech. The problem for him, and why this helps us, is he’s completely flouting Imperial law by doing this. There is nothing in the Imperial law books that allows an individual to unilaterally declare him- or herself Emperor. What he should have done was proclaim himself the temporary commander or regent or whatever of the Empire, and only take charge of the war effort until a new Senate could be elected and a new Emperor chosen. That would have ensured stability and continuity. Instead, this declaration of his is almost certainly going to be contested in the courts, leading to further chaos and confusion at a time when the Empire needs unity.”

“Not only that, but now that General Etralis has proclaimed himself Emperor, what’s to stop other powerful leaders from doing the same? If you’re a low-ranking but ambitious general, aren’t you going to do whatever you can to profit from the chaos all around you? I wouldn’t be surprised if we see several rival Emperors rise up now, which may even lead to civil war in what’s left of the Empire.”

Fortulis whistled appreciatively. “And a civil war in the Empire will, of course, make our job easier,” he said.

“Of course,” Vodin said with a grin, “In one fell swoop, General Embamor Etralis has done a great deal of our work for us.” Fortulis couldn’t help but join in with Vodin’s mirth.

“Well, isn’t that just marvelous?” he said, chuckling. Vodin let out a loud guffaw.

“I knew that our plan was a good one,” she said, “but I certainly didn’t foresee just how well it would work out. Aside from the unfortunate deaths of Lorovic and his men, everything has gone in our favor. Who knew that overthrowing the Empire would be so easy?” At that, Fortulis let out a loud guffaw of his own. Soon both of them were laughing gleefully, to the point that Fortulis’ secretary called to ask if everything was okay.

“Oh…,” he started, and then took a deep breath to try and keep himself from laughing more, “Oh yes. Shaz and I are just having a discussion about how easy our jobs are.” And then they both started laughing uncontrollably again. Fortulis’ secretary just shook his head with a small smile and disconnected.

After a while, when the laughter died down, Vodin looked at Fortulis and said, “So what happens now?” Fortulis rested his hands on his desk and sighed.

“The plan is to keep pressing on and wipe the Empire from the face of the galaxy,” he said, suddenly looking every bit the old man that he was. “That is our mission, and has been since our great and glorious order was founded 350 years ago. We will not be satisfied with half-measures. We will carry on until our mission is complete or we are dead.” Vodin nodded, satisfied. Then she rose and quietly left the room, and Fortulis turned his attention to other matters.

The End

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