Veshryk Jilorin never expected that he would someday become a protestor, much less a leader of protestors. For his entire life, he had been quiet and unassuming, wholeheartedly focused on academic excellence and keeping his head down so that nothing would distract him from that pursuit. He was a third-year student at Imperial University, the most prestigious school in the entire galaxy. He had begun his studies there about a month before the destruction of the Senate, but even that event and the wars and chaos that ensued had failed to distract him.
Like so many others, though, the brazen way that Adlamor Finegal had seized the Imperial Throne after the death of Embamor II shocked and offended him. Few people had been happy about Embamor doing the same thing, but for the most part, they accepted his explanation that there was no other option in a time of crisis. They also believed the new Emperor when he said that he would deal with the terrorists quickly and then abdicate in favor of a legally elected Emperor or Empress.
Three years later, and the citizens of Trisitania were in a much less forgiving mood. Three years of war, conscription, food shortages, and constant bad news were causing a demand for a return to law and order, and that meant, among other things, an Emperor legally elected by a properly constituted Senate. The problem was that there still was no Senate, but that fact just made people angrier. And Veshryk Jilorin was one of the angriest of all.
Immediately after “Preclonus IV” (a name that Jilorin and his followers refused to use, preferring to call him “the Pretender”) gave his coronation speech, Jilorin had begun organizing his fellow students into a movement to protest Finegal’s illegal ascension to the Throne. Jilorin had never been particularly social, so he was somewhat surprised to discover that he had a natural talent for organizing and inspiring people to action. Of course, it helped that he was working on a cause that he passionately believed in.
A few days after the coronation speech, Jilorin had organized a meeting to discuss what to do about the Pretender. Twenty people showed up. The next day, another meeting attracted over a hundred people. Within a week, ten thousand people, almost a quarter of the entire student body of Imperial University, were attending his rallies. Such gigantic meetings attracted the ire of IU’s administration, so they relocated to the Citizen’s Plaza, a vast open area in front of the Imperial Palace. Once settled in perhaps the most centrally located and visible public place in Selorin, the ranks of the protestors swelled. Now there were over a hundred thousand citizens camped in front of the Palace, demanding the immediate abdication of the Pretender.
Unfortunately, Jilorin’s group were not the only ones upset about the Pretender, and other groups were less concerned about maintaining the peace. Jilorin was adamant that they were not trying to overthrow the Empire; instead, they just wanted a legitimate Emperor. Not everyone in Selorin felt that way. There were republican groups that were taking advantage of the situation to press their agenda with violence. There were also various groups that just wanted to cause as much chaos as they could for their own gain. Jilorin also suspected that there were Fangalin units operating in the city, as well.
Jilorin tried not to worry about all of that. His responsibility was to his cause, and to the people who had chosen to follow him. He was confident that the end was in sight. The Pretender had no support in the provinces, and the only military unit on Trisitania that backed him was the Legion of the Heart. Every other unit seemed to be standing aside to see what happened. Unfortunately, none of them had joined Jilorin’s movement, but he had persuaded himself that they would join him once the rightness of his cause had been demonstrated.
That demonstration would happen soon. Jilorin and his closest confidants were planning to storm the Imperial Palace in the next few days. The Legion of the Heart only had about two thousand troops, so Jilorin’s one hundred thousand followers would be able to overwhelm them through force of numbers alone. Once the people held the Palace, the process of electing a Senate, and then an Emperor, could finally begin.
“How are things going?” he asked as he stepped into the tent that had become the protestors’ de facto command center.
“Not so good, Vesh,” said one of the people in the tent, a serious-looking young woman named Hana Lodimeur. She was one of the members of the inner circle of the movement, one of the twenty who had been at the original meeting. She was of average height, and slender, with short brown hair that looked as if it were rarely washed or combed. She probably would have been pretty if she paid any attention to her appearance, but her energy and attention was directed elsewhere.
“What do you mean, Hana?” Jilorin said, concerned.
“I mean that there’s another pretender to worry about,” she replied. “Jimalin Redlamin just arrived in orbit with a fleet of warships, full of Imperial Army troops. He intends to storm the Palace, remove its current occupant, and take his place.” Her eyes burned with fury as she spoke, and Jilorin found himself mirroring that fury. These pretenders were acting like toddlers, fighting over a shiny toy! The Imperial Throne was not a plaything to be seized by whoever had the most guns and soldiers!
“This changes nothing!” yelled another occupant of the tent. This was Niven Umior, another of the original twenty. Tall and lanky, with an unruly shock of long black hair, Umior was usually the most laid-back member of the group, smiling and laughing about everything. But right now he was just as furious as Lodimeur and Jilorin.
“We will seize the Palace, and we will show these pretenders what it means to disregard the will of the people!” he continued, thrusting a fist into the air. Everyone in the tent cheered, and Jilorin found himself joining in. Umior was right. Once the people held the Palace, all would be made right. Their cause was just, and justice would always win out in the end.
To be continued…