After several weeks of fruitless investigating, there came a day that started off perfectly normally. Hana had spent the whole day standing behind Dren Calabane while he met with a seemingly never-ending parade of Fangalin dignitaries. His final meeting of the day was with a member of Ven Ron’s faction. Calaza Mektoa was a short, round man, who looked a little bit like the late Supreme Commander, Zhemeen Fortulis. But where Fortulis had been a tightly wound ball of energy right up until his death, Councilor Mektoa was a lazy, indolent man who liked his luxuries a little too much. He had a red nose, dark, beady eyes, and a large bald patch in the middle of his grayish-black hair that was somewhat feebly combed-over. He had a glass of fine Iresilian wine in one hand, and an expensive Moratorilian cigar in the other, and he was surveying Calabane as one would survey a bug that one was about to crush underfoot.
Calabane, on the other hand, had a blandly tolerant expression on his face, but Hana knew him well enough to know that he was seething inside. Of all the members of Ven Ron’s faction, Calaza Mektoa was the worst. Hana knew that Calabane hated to waste time dealing with Ron’s faction, especially when he was so close to purging the lot of them from the Grand Council, but appearances needed to be maintained.
“I really do think you should consider my proposal, Commander,” Mektoa said, idly swirling his wine glass and inspecting the way it caught the light of the setting sun streaming in through the massive windows behind Calabane’s desk.
“You know that I always am willing to consider any proposal from the Grand Council, Councilor Mektoa,” Calabane said blandly, “but I think you should be aware that there is very little chance that I will approve this particular proposal. An alliance with the Kingdom of Midigal seems unlikely to further the interests of Fangalin.”
“I’m afraid the Council disagrees with you, Commander,” Mektoa said, after taking a long draw from his cigar. “The Empire is stronger than it has been at any time since the Emergence, and both the Kingdom of Midigal and the Republic of Hadramoris are consolidating their strength as well. If we are going to complete the conquest of the galaxy within our lifetimes, then we should take every advantage we can get.”
“And what happens when the Republic and the Empire are defeated?” Calabane asked, his voice still carefully bland. “Will we give up our dream of unifying the galaxy under our rule? Or will we betray our allies? I must admit, neither of those possibilities are overly appealing to me.”
“Well, you must do what you think best,” Mektoa replied, finishing off his wine and taking one last draw from his cigar. “You are the Supreme Commander, after all. I just thought you might like to know how the Council feels about this matter.”
“And I appreciate the Council bringing these matters to my attention,” Calabane said, standing up. “I hope the Council remembers that my door is always open.”
“Of course, Commander,” Mektoa said, following Calabane’s lead. “Of course.” After exchanging generic pleasantries, Morken Velenoth showed Mektoa out, and Calabane turned to Hana.
“That’s one person I won’t miss,” Calabane said grimly, going over to his liquor cabinet and pouring himself a glass of Iresilian wine. “The man does have good taste in wine, I will admit that.”
“Maybe so, but I suggest letting me scan that wine for toxins before you drink it,” Hana said wryly.
“Oh come now, Admiral,” Calabane said skeptically. “You just saw Councilor Mektoa down a whole glass of this without any ill effect. How do you suppose he could have poisoned the rest of this bottle?”
“I don’t know, and I don’t care,” Hana said firmly. “Your safety is my priority. Call me paranoid if you want, but I’m going to scan that wine.”
“Oh, very well,” Calabane said, handing over the wine. Hana took a small device out of pocket and passed it back and forth near the glass of wine. A few seconds later, the device beeped, and a green light flashed.
“Okay, it’s safe,” Hana said, handing the glass back to him.
“Thank you, Admiral,” Calabane said, taking the glass with a sardonic smile. He took a sip of the wine and smacked his lips appreciatively. “Ah, that’s good.” He sat down at his desk as Morken Velenoth came back in the room. “What’s next on the agenda, Morken?”
“That was your last meeting of the day, Commander,” Velenoth said, coming up to stand next to Calabane’s desk.
“Oh, good,” Calabane said. “That’ll give me some time to catch up on paperwork.”
“Commander, if you don’t need me for anything at the moment, I thought I would go back to my office,” Velenoth said. “I, too, have a great deal of paperwork to do.”
“Of course, Morken, of course,” Calabane said, waving a hand dismissively. As he bowed and departed, Calabane looked over his shoulder at Hana and gave her a wink. “Such a good assistant. I don’t know why you were ever suspicious of him.” Hana ignored him, and Calabane chuckled and took another sip of his wine.
Immediately, Hana could tell that something was wrong. Calabane jumped out of his seat, clutching his throat and gasping for breath. Hana instantly pressed a button on her tablet, calling for medical aid, and then she rushed to him and began administering first aid. She eased him down onto the floor, pulled the first aid kit out from under his desk, and gave him a shot of coloteral to ease his breathing. Unfortunately, it didn’t seem to have any effect. The next thing she did was give him a shot of mistikal, which was an antidote to many common poisons. This didn’t have any effect either. Suddenly, she realized that he wasn’t breathing at all anymore. A sharp jolt of panic stabbed her heart, but she wasn’t ready to give up yet. Before she could do anything else, though, the door to the Supreme Commander’s office opened. Assuming it was her medical team, she didn’t look at the door at all, so she was not expecting to hear Ven Ron’s voice roar, “TRAITOR!”
Startled, she looked up, but before she could do anything, she was tackled by two burly security officers and swiftly handcuffed before she could retaliate.
To be continued…