Milton squeezed his eyes shut in a vain effort to put the past two days' events behind him. He rubbed his temples, trying to ease the throbbing headache that felt like something was hammering at his skull.
The treaty had been signed now. For now, things would remain under control. This should buy them time to gain more support in the Senate, or elsewhere, and if they showed the Republic that they were willing to be compliant, they might be able to convince them to reconsider their stance.
As incensed as he was at the Republic's feeble explanation for the delay, he was more than relieved that Sorbin had agreed to Solo's offer. After Sorbin's non-stop ranting over the last few months, Milton was sure that the only outcome of failed negotiations would be a drastic one. He was surprised that Sorbin did not follow through with his threats. So they were idle threats after all, he snickered.
He sighed, getting up to stand by the small window in his room. He stared out into the Ilden City skyline, lit up beautifully in the still early evening. His thoughts drifted to his childhood, his oft-forgotten past. He reflected on the road that led him to where he was now.
As a young boy, all he had dreamed of was someday proudly representing Falor as he explored the galaxy. He never expected to follow the road to politics. It was all by accident that he crossed paths with Sorbin. He had served him in the Falorian military, when Sorbin was a young and ambitious admiral. Before long, his ambition resulted in a coup of the Falorian government. Aided by the Empire, whom Sorbin managed to somehow turn to his favor, he was able to capture the capital, and proceeded to declare a dictatorship. As a reward for his loyalty, Milton was granted governorship of the capital planet of Falor I.
But he cringed to think of the cost they had all incurred as a result.
Falor had once been a thriving system. Milton remembered that well. Prosperous and vital, its four planets served as one of the centers of trade in the galaxy, until Sorbin's regime squeezed all the lifeblood out of it. And now... Now Falor was only a shadow of its former self. He had hoped that entering the Alliance would have been its salvation, but now that option seemed as distant as the days of Falor's glory.
The Republic. He instantly scowled again at the thought of them. How dared they dangle the possibility of admission into the Alliance the way they did? They had made Falor wait far too long, led them on with false promises. He saw that they never intended to admit them in the first place. They had known all along of Falor's history, but had never indicated that this was the cause of the delay in their approval.
They were our last hope, he thought dejectedly, feeling the bitterness seep into them as he thought of their plight. He hoped the Republic would come around in time. If Sorbin could manage not to let his emotions get the best of him and do something they would regret, perhaps the Republic would reconsider their fate sooner or later.
"Well, good morning, Governor. How good of you to join us finally."
"Minister, I apologize, I wasn't aware that the time of the briefing had been moved up--"
"No matter, Governor," Sorbin interrupted him, casually waving his hand to dismiss Milton's worries as Milton sat down. He was surprised at Sorbin's nonchalant reaction, expecting to be upbraided for his tardiness. As he sat, he quickly scanned the faces of the cabinet members joining them today.
He's certainly in a good mood today, Milton noted as he watched Sorbin. Sorbin had been understandably subdued yesterday, when the treat with the Republic was signed. But this morning, he seemed to be filled with renewed vigor, and Milton wondered what could have possibly caused the drastic change in his demeanor.
"You're just in time, today, Milton. We've got important things to discuss today regarding the matter with the Republic."
Milton nodded enthusiastically. "Yes, your honor," he said excitedly, anxious to give Sorbin his suggestions, "I have been thinking about this. We have some minor support in the Senate, surely we can have someone set a motion for us--"
Sorbin interruped him with a easy laugh. "That is not what I had in mind, Governor."
Milton eyed Sorbin with curiosity. Sorbin's eyes danced with an inner glee that Milton found mildly disturbing. For a brief moment, Sorbin looked almost maniacal. Milton felt himself hold his breath as he awaited Sorbin's words.
"I'm sure it must have surprised you when I agreed to the treaty," Sorbin told him, addressing the very thoughts that Milton had had. "After all, I made it no secret that I did not intend to accept any offer made by the Republic other than approval of our admission."
Milton nodded weakly. "Yes sir, I admit I was a bit shocked at the fact that you accepted, but... I thought you had decided to acknowledge the Republic's gesture for now until we bought more time..."
"The treaty was a ruse, Governor..." Sorbin answered, rising from the table dramatically to walk around the room. "It was clear that Solo was sent here by the Chief of State to force us to comply or else be silenced. I agreed to the treaty to appease her, but now the time has come for us to make the Republic see what a grave mistake they have made in trying to dismiss us."
Milton gulped. What could Sorbin possibly mean by that? "I'm... not sure I quite understand..."
Sorbin glanced at General Carron, an almost fleeting glance that could have gone unnoticed if Milton had not been staring so intently at the Prime Minister. "It's simple, Milton. This Republic is in over its head. You heard what Solo said about its 'Constitution' and its ridiculous and elitist laws. They are nothing but a group of idealists who are playing 'government.' And it's only a matter of time before other systems realize that this new Republic they have put their faith in is a house of cards waiting to collapse."
He sat back down and leaned back on his chair, contining to look Milton straight in the eyes, a steady gaze that bore into him with laser-like intensity. "The Republic is still very young," Sorbin continued in an almost amused tone, "It's barely twenty years old. No matter how stable they pretend to be... Well, a government like that is vulnerable to threats, especially when..."
When what? Milton felt his eyes begin to widen in horror. What could he possibly be suggesting?
Milton instantly recognized that unmistakable look in Sorbin's eyes. The look he had seen twenty years ago in the then ambitious admiral. "Sir... Am I understanding that you are implying some sort of a coup?"
What could he be thinking? Taking over Coruscant would be nothing like taking over Falor...
"But sir, how could we, we don't -- "
Sorbin's amused laugh echoed boldly in the silent boardroom. "My, my Governor, how ambitious you are," he managed between fits of laughter. "No, not even I would be so bold to attempt such a feat at this time. You heard what Solo said, the heart of the Republic's military is concentrated in the capital. A coup would be futile at this point, without... a few things being taken care of first."
He looked again towards General Carron, the corners of his mouth forming into a smile.
"The key is to throw them into chaos first... What do you suppose would happen if they lost some of their leadership, Governor?"
Milton could not bring himself to answer the question. He merely stared blankly at the madman who faced him.
Sorbin noted his right hand's shocked silence. He smiled a cocky smile. He'll come around soon enough, he thought. Milton was right to be cautious, perhaps, but Sorbin was not worried. The shock would soon wear off on the Governor, and he would see that this was the only way. He leaned towards Milton, his words deliberate and chillingly ominous.
"The house of cards would fall, Milton, that's what would happen..." He leaned in closer to him, and Milton could feel his hot breath on his face. "No, we can not stage a coup, Governor. Not yet. Not until we stage an assassination."
"Assassination?" Milton repeated in horror, unable to fully assimilate what was being suggested to him.
"Yes, Governor," Sorbin responded matter-of-factly, as if to lessen the harshness of his words. He was still smiling that amused smile that turned Milton's blood cold. "An assassination of the two most important people in the heart of the Republic. Chief of State Parsis, and the head of the newly established Jedi Council, Luke Skywalker. Without the Chief of State and the leader of the Jedi Knights, chaos would indeed ensue. And when chaos erupts," he said, his voice making the hair on the back of Milton's neck rise involuntarily, "We shall make our move..."
Sorbin began to cackle at his last statement, and his laugh was the most terrifying sound that Milton had ever heard.
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