A hundred dropships screamed through the Trisitanian atmosphere, making a beeline for the heart of Selorin, the Imperial Palace. On the largest of them rode His Majesty Emperor Extrator IV. It had only been a few months since Jimalin Redlamin had proclaimed himself Emperor, but in that short time he had already fully embraced his new name. He didn’t think of himself as Jimalin anymore; he was Extrator. The transformation was so complete that he didn’t even get angry when someone slipped and called him Jimalin; he simply ignored it.
Everything that Extrator did was carefully considered, and the choice of his name was no exception. All three of the previous Emperors named Extrator had been long-lived and ruled over times of great prosperity. Extrator IV considered this a good omen, one which was compounded by the fact that Extrator I had ruled during the year 1000. Extrator IV was a great believer in signs and the significance of numbers, and this seemed auspicious.
He was currently in prayer, as usual. Prayer fueled every action that he took, and this would be one of the most important actions he ever embarked upon. Seizing the Palace was essential to his plan to heal the Empire. With the capital in his possession, it would legitimize his rule and provide him a solid base from which to reconquer the rest of the Empire. It was imperative to him that he know the will of the One in this, and in all matters.
He gradually realized that there was a young female lieutenant standing nearby, shuffling her feet nervously and waiting for him to become aware of her. He finished his prayer, and then, without opening his eyes, commanded her to speak.
“Your Majesty,” she said anxiously, “we have a minor situation on the surface. We’ve been trying to contact the Palace, and there has been no response.” The Emperor was silent for a few moments.
“I see,” he said softly, without opening his eyes. “Where is General Hoshic?”
“He is in the operations center, Your Majesty, trying to figure out what’s going on,” the lieutenant said apologetically. “We’ve sent messages to the Legion of the Heart and the ISS on every frequency, and we have not received any response.” She hesitated, and then continued speaking. “That’s not all, Your Majesty.” The Emperor opened his eyes at this, and the lieutenant swallowed hard at his look. “We’re getting reports that some sort of civilian mob is trying to break into the Palace. We don’t know exactly how many there are, but there seems to be at least fifty thousand of them. They’re lightly armed, but they seem determined. As far as we can tell, the Legion has the Palace on lockdown, but they don’t seem to be doing anything else to fight them off.” The Emperor frowned at this.
“Thank you, Lieutenant,” he said, “Please tell General Hoshic to come see me immediately.”
“Yes, Your Majesty,” she said with a bow, and then rushed off to find Hoshic. Extrator returned to his prayers while he awaited the general’s arrival.
He didn’t have to wait long. He looked up as the door to his quarters opened and General Hoshic entered. Izik Hoshic was the archetypical military career man. He had a buzz cut and was clean shaven, and he had a long scar that went from just below his right eye, across his cheek, and down to his chin. He had hard, grey eyes that matched his hair, and his face looked like it was chiseled roughly from a block of granite. He was short, only about 5’4, but his frame was lean and powerful. He had been a Colonel prior to the destruction of the Senate, and Governor Redlamin’s chief military advisor. Once Redlamin proclaimed himself Emperor, he had promoted Hoshic to General and named him Supreme Commander of the Imperial Armed Forces.
“I see you got my message, Jim,” Hoshic said in a deep, gravelly voice. The Emperor stared at him blankly for a few moments, until Hoshic realized his mistake. “Uh, I mean, Your Majesty.” The Emperor was a stickler for propriety, even among his closest friends.
“I did,” the Emperor said quietly. “Have you been able to figure out anything else about the situation?”
“No, and it’s really pissing me off,” the General said, spitting in disgust. The Emperor stared coldly at the small glob of spit that had landed on the floor. He’d always disapproved of this habit, but he’d never been able to figure out how to get Hoshic to stop. “Nobody seems to have any idea what’s going on in the Palace. I’ve contacted other units in Selorin and throughout Trisitania, but nobody has had any contact with the Legion, or anyone else in the Palace.” The Emperor frowned thoughtfully.
“A vexing problem,” he said, “Hopefully it won’t prove to be an issue. Even if the Legion has decided to betray us, we should be able to overwhelm them and seize the Palace. After all, we have fifty times as many troops as they do.”
“True,” replied Hoshic, “but the Palace is very easy to defend, and the Legion is the best of the best. We’ll suffer heavy casualties if we have to take the Palace by force.” The Emperor shook his head.
“We can’t do anything about that right now,” he said dismissively, “What about this mob?”
“Buncha civilians,” growled Hoshic, “Mostly college kids from IU. They seem to have some grand and glorious idea about seizing the Throne and restoring it to the people, whatever that means.”
“Hmmm,” said Extrator, “Interesting. I take it they see me as an usurper?” Hoshic nodded. “Very well. We will wait and see what happens. Once we have the Palace, we’ll talk to them and see if they accept my rule. If they don’t, we will kill them.” Hoshic nodded again, a cruel smile spreading across his face. “You are dismissed, General.” Hoshic bowed and left the room, leaving Extrator to his thoughts. He didn’t want to kill thousands of civilians, but they couldn’t be allowed to stand in his way. He was the chosen of the One, and if these people couldn’t see it, then they would have to be destroyed.
To be continued…