The Emperor was drunk and passed out in his favorite recliner when Adlamor Finegal found him. Not for the first time, Finegal thought about how easy it would be to slip a knife in that fat gut and claim the throne himself. Embamor II had no children, so there was no heir for the throne to pass to automatically, and there was still no Senate, so it would be as easy for him to proclaim himself Emperor as it was for Embamor Etralis.
The one thing that stayed Finegal’s hand was the military. He had no illusions about how the Imperial Fleet and the Imperial Army felt about him, and he knew that if he tried to launch a coup, the military would overthrow him almost immediately. No, he needed to bide his time. His opportunity was coming. He just needed to be patient.
Finegal folded his arms and glared down at the pathetic old sot who claimed to be the ruler of the galaxy. It was a hollow claim, and everyone knew it. Emperor Embamor II had effective control of maybe a quarter of what was once the unbroken Trisitanian Empire, and he’d had it for only three years. Finegal couldn’t understand why even that much of the Empire had followed him for that long. Only a fool would be loyal to Embamor Etralis.
Finegal was no fool. His loyalty extended only as far as Embamor’s usefulness to his ambitions. Finegal meant to succeed where Embamor had failed. He would sit on the Imperial Throne, and he would be the one to reunite the shattered provinces with an iron fist. He could see it all so clearly. All he had to do was allow the Fangalin assassins to do their work, and then every obstacle in his way would be eliminated. His reign would be truly glorious.
He was so lost in his wonderful daydreams that he didn’t notice at first when the Emperor stirred. He just about jumped out of his skin when the Emperor sat up and spoke to him.
“Ah, Adlamor,” he said drowsily, “How goes the war?” Finegal was so startled that he dropped the tablet he was holding, which fortunately was designed to stand up to rough treatment.
“Oh, um, yes, sire,” he stammered, fumbling around on the ground to pick up his tablet, “Things are going, ah, well, they are going poorly, as usual.” The Emperor growled and sat up a little straighter.
“Curse you, Finegal,” the Emperor said angrily, “Why can’t you ever bring me any good news? What’s going wrong now?”
“Actually, I do have some good news for once,” Finegal said, scanning the contents of his tablet once more, “General Haasadis Ventelin is reporting that his raiding parties have had some success damaging Fangalin fortifications on Habaladis and Beneforix.”
“Ventelin, huh?” the Emperor said with a frown, “The muscle head? I thought we got a report last week from General Vandox that he wasn’t in his assigned sector?”
“Well, those reports were unconfirmed, sire,” Finegal replied, “Obviously, General Ventelin’s reports are unconfirmed as well, but until we have proof otherwise, we should assume that he’s telling us the truth.” Embamor frowned and scratched his unshaven face.
“I suppose so,” he said grumpily, “Do we have anybody who can go out to that sector and make sure that Ventelin is where he’s supposed to be?”
“Unfortunately, no,” said Finegal, “We don’t have anybody to spare. Every single unit in the Empire is tied up fighting the terrorists, the Republic, or the usurpers.” The Emperor scowled and muttered swear words to himself.
“I guess we’re gonna have to trust him then,” the Emperor said disgustedly, “Generals! They’re all idiots!” He leaned back in his recliner and scratched his crotch idly. Finegal stared at him with a mixture of confusion and disgust.
“Um, sire, forgive me for saying this but…weren’t you a general before you ascended to the throne?” he asked. The Emperor glared at him.
“Of course I was, you imbecile!” he thundered, “That’s how I know that! Don’t you have any brains under that greasy hair? Get out of my face!” Finegal bowed in acquiescence, but his eyes burned with rage. He straightened and turned without letting the Emperor see the fury in his eyes, and strode out of the Emperor’s chambers.
He walked quickly through the halls of the great Imperial Palace, not paying any attention to where he was going. He was so sick of bowing and scraping to that great imbecile. And he was even more sick of being insulted by him. Adlamor Finegal should be the Emperor, not Embamor Etralis! It was Finegal who knew every secret thing that took place throughout the galaxy. It was Finegal who ran the Empire, while the moron who sat on the throne drank himself to death. Finegal was tired of having the responsibility without the glory.
He gradually forced himself to calm down and slow down. There was no reason for him to get so enraged over a few slight insults. He had a plan. A good plan. He already knew that Fangalin was considering assassinating the Emperor. He had told the Emperor this, and the Emperor had laughed in his face. Well, Finegal would be the one laughing last. Once Fangalin struck, Adlamor Finegal would be in the perfect position to take Embamor’s place.
There was one problem though. The leaders of Fangalin had not yet decided whether or not to go ahead with the assassination. Finegal needed to figure out some way to persuade them that the Emperor was a threat. He had spies in every corner of the Empire, so he knew everything that was going on, but his ability to actually affect events was limited.
And then he had his answer. It was so simple, yet so brilliant, that it made him laugh out loud, causing a pair of cleaning women passing by to stare at him strangely. But he didn’t care. In fact, he laughed even louder at the look on their faces. It felt good to laugh for once. Even better, he knew that soon, the Imperial Throne would be his.
To be continued…