On the 132nd story of Vinallix Tower, Vibal Trogoron was gazing out of the massive floor-to-ceiling windows of his luxurious office, and thinking about revolution. It was not a thought that came lightly to him. Trogoron had been a loyal and law-abiding citizen of the Empire for his entire life, and his entire outlook was built on the concepts of order and stability, but the chaos that had now gripped the Empire had completely destroyed any semblance of order. It was enough to drive a thoroughly conservative man to radical measures.
Trogoron was in his late 50s, with short-cropped, iron gray hair, chiseled features, and round glasses. He was tall and thin, and had a commanding presence, almost military, although he had never actually served in the Imperial Fleet. He rarely smiled, and never laughed. He was the CEO of Vinallix, which was based in Forma, the capital city of the province of Nemixis. It was one of the largest and most powerful corporations in the galaxy, and as such, he was one of the wealthiest and most powerful civilians in the galaxy.
His thoughts were interrupted by the door of his office opening. He turned to see his assistant enter the room. As she was quite beautiful and even voluptuous, many believed that they were having an affair, but the reality was much more mundane. Rel Votulin was as brilliant and efficient as she was attractive. It was just a coincidence that her mind inhabited what could have been the body of a supermodel. The staid and dour Trogoron didn’t much care what she looked like, as long as she did her job well.
“So,” he said as she approached him, “is this news accurate?”
“Yes, sir,” she replied, “Emperor Embamor is dead. He was gunned down in his quarters by Fangalin assassins.”
“Unfortunate, but not unexpected,” Trogoron said, “Has anyone taken his place?”
“Yes,” she said, “Adlamor Finegal has taken the name Preclonus IV and laid claim to the throne.” Trogoron frowned in response to this.
“Finegal?” he repeated, “Fascinating. I wouldn’t have thought that anyone worse than Embamor Etralis would ever occupy the throne. But Finegal could easily claim that distinction. How many provinces have accepted his claim so far?”
“None, sir,” Votulin replied.
“None?” Trogoron said, surprised, “I wonder if that’s good or bad.”
“I wouldn’t know, sir,” Votulin said, “But I do have some more news. Yet another pretender has emerged: Jimalin Redlamin.”
“The governor of Bliddle?” Trogoron said, even more surprised. “I wouldn’t have expected that. Have any provinces accepted him?”
“A few,” said Votulin. “Bliddle, of course. Revlingal, Uarris, Parnora. A few others. That’s more support than Finegal has.”
“Bliddle alone would be more support than Finegal has,” Trogoron scoffed. “I wouldn’t be surprised if he holds little more than the Imperial Palace itself.”
“You’re not far off, sir,” Votulin said. “We’ve been getting reports of protests and rioting in the streets of Selorin.”
“Unbelievable,” Trogoron replied, shaking his head. “What is the Empire coming to? How could things have collapsed so completely in so short a time? Four years ago, we were at the height of order and prosperity, and now? Rioting in the streets of Selorin? I can hardly believe it possible. Four years ago, it was a big deal if somebody got mugged in Selorin.”
“I quite agree, sir,” Votulin said grimly, “it is difficult to believe. Nevertheless, I’m quite confident these reports are accurate.”
“Of course you are, Rel,” Trogoron said, waving his hand dismissively. “I would never think to question the veracity of your information. The question is, what do I do about it?” He frowned and rubbed his chin, and turned back to the window.
“As I see it, you have three potential courses of action,” Votulin said in her typically brisk, efficient voice, “First of all, you could choose to remain neutral until it becomes obvious which pretender will provide the best leadership for the Empire and the best conditions for Vinallix to grow its profits.” Trogoron nodded at this.
“That would be a prudent course, if I thought that any of the pretenders thus far would provide either of those things,” he said. “Meanwhile, while this civil war plays out, the Empire will spiral further and further into madness and chaos.”
“The second option would be to back a specific pretender and support that person with the substantial resources that you and Vinallix command,” Votulin said.
“A riskier approach, but with greater potential benefits,” Trogoron said appreciatively. “If we backed the right pretender, he would be in our debt once he had obtained the throne. Pick wrong, however, and the winner would likely nationalize Vinallix and all its assets. Not to mention that that approach has the same problems as the first option.” Votulin nodded.
“The third approach is the riskiest of all, but with the greatest potential rewards,” she continued. “You could choose to make a bid for the throne.” There was a moment of silence while Trogoron attempted to digest this thought.
“That is a most interesting idea, my dear,” he said slowly. “I cannot say that it hadn’t occurred to me.”
“Indeed, sir,” Votulin said. “It is the most logical course of action. You have more experience managing a vast bureaucracy than any of the men currently vying for the throne. You have substantial resources and control of one of the most powerful corporations in the galaxy. You are well-known and well-regarded by both the elites and the common people of the Empire. You would, in short, be a better Emperor than anyone who currently claims that title.” Trogoron frowned, deep in thought.
“And yet, if I fail…,” Trogoron began.
“It will mean the destruction of everything you’ve worked for, and likely the loss of your life,” Votulin finished.
“A harsh penalty,” Trogoron said.
“Indeed,” Votulin responded. “But a rich reward.” Trogoron thought for a few moments, and then he spoke.
“Rich enough,” Trogoron said. “I will do it.”
To be continued…