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Dawn of a New Threat

Chapter 14

"Sir, the delegates have all arrived and they've been shown to the boardroom," Milton informed Sorbin.

"Thank you, Governor," Sorbin answered, beaming widely. He was in good spirits today, Milton observed. In fact, the Prime Minister had been in good spirits for some time now, which could only mean that his schemes were developing according to his carefully thought-out plan.

Of course, Sorbin had revealed little of his plan to anyone -- including his own right-hand man. That had always been his way. He was a private, guarded man, who trusted nobody else with details, preferring to work them all out in his own mind only, before finally letting the chosen few see small pieces of the puzzle he had already worked out far in advance.

Sorbin eyed the Governor with mild amusement. "You're wondering why I am in such a good mood, aren't you?" he laughed.

"Yes, the thought did occur to me," Milton admitted. "You had been quite concerned a few weeks ago after the assassination attempt failed. I... assume matters have changed since then?" He stopped short of asking Sorbin about his plans. He knew it was not his place to ask for the details; Sorbin would give them to him eventually as he saw fit. Such had been their understanding since the beginning.

"They have changed indeed," the Prime Minister replied coyly. "I've... been able to come in contact with some people that can help us in our 'situation.' I believe they will be great allies to us, and hopefully to the people in that boardroom also, should they choose to join forces with us."

"You mean these allies you speak of were not among those you had me contact, Minister?"

"No, Governor," Sorbin shook his head, still careful not to reveal any detail which he was not ready to give away just yet. "Don't worry, when the time comes, I will inform you accordingly," he told Milton, who looked back at him with curious eyes. "Now then, Milton, why don't we go and meet with the delegates. I'm sure they are all anxious to learn why I have asked them to come."

"Your honors... Welcome, and thank you for accepting our invitation for you to come here to Falor for this important discussion. I sincerely hope that by the end of our talks today, we will see things from the same point of view." Sorbin smiled broadly at the faces that looked back at him.

Milton watched Sorbin's wily charms in action as he surveyed those who had gathered around him. Representatives from Cordana, Romin Major, Dulvis, as well as seven other systems, had made the long journey to Falor at Sorbin's request, and he knew they must have been very curious to hear what the Prime Minister had to say.

Sorbin had made certain that the systems he contacted had expressed sympathy towards Falor's plight with the Republic. He had taken great pains to ensure that those Milton invited here today would be likely to be responsive to what Falor was about to propose. No doubt they would be stunned at first, Milton thought. They would be shocked, as he was, at the boldness of what Sorbin was going to suggest. After all, he doubted that any of them had even entertained the thought of taking any sort of action against the Republic.

But Milton knew at least part of Sorbin's strategy. Each of these systems had had their issues with the Republic in recent months, and it would likely take little to plant a seed of doubt in their minds. Then they would join them in revolt.

Unconsciously, Milton shuddered at the thought, but pushed aside the doubts and watched the proceedings begin.

"Thank you for having us here, Minister Sorbin," Ambassador Lurie Bendiss answered him, bowing her head in a show of respect, her long white-blond hair gently sweeping the table. She was dressed in the traditional ceremonial dress of the Cordanans, as a member of their high council.

Of all the delegates meeting with them today, she would be the most difficult to convince, Milton determined. A highly spiritual people, Cordanans were known to show the utmost respect for everyone whom they encountered and with whom they interacted. He was sure that she would be the most stunned in the room once Sorbin made his proposal, and he had made sure to tell the Prime Minister to choose his words as carefully as possible so as not to offend her.

Turning her in their favor would indeed be difficult, but if Sorbin could manage to do so, he would surely have little trouble with the rest.

"Now, everyone," he continued, addressing all the delegates at once, "I am sure you have been curious to know exactly why I have requested this meeting with you. Governor Milton has, I'm sure, made you aware that I wish to broach the subject of the Republic here today. In particular, I'd like to discuss with you, our concern over the direction we believe the Republic is heading in..."

"You're concerned over the future of the Republic?" Taron Kilver, Romin Major's representative asked.

Sorbin turned his attention to the small, blue-skinned Rominian. "Yes, Ambassador, that is correct. We are concerned. In fact, if I may be so bold, I will tell you right now, that I do not have much faith in the Republic at this point, especially in light of recent events on Coruscant."

He paused dramatically, rising from the table to walk around the room. Maintaining eye contact with each of the representatives, he never let any slip away from his attention. As if anticipating their next question, he continued. "Now, I realize that many of you might think that we feel this way given the current status of our petition to join the Republic. Perhaps you think that if we had been admitted I would not be standing in front of you here today saying this to you. But to be honest with you, I now look at this rejection from the Republic as a blessing in disguise, in a way. It has made things much clearer for me. This Republic, the one we have all put so much faith in, is not as strong as we had all thought. And I think you know why."

Milton noted the silence among the delegates. They sat transfixed on Sorbin, as he paced the room with long, purposeful strides. The masterful speaker that he was, he used just the right nuance and cadence to his voice, just enough to make those in the boardroom wait with bated breath to hear him elaborate on his bold assertion. Milton could hardly believe his eyes, amazed that Sorbin was already holding their minds captive, even before he had gotten to the very heart of what he had come to discuss.

Sorbin certainly had a flair for drama, Milton thought, noticing that Sorbin had paused for just the right length of time to let the delegates absorb his words. "Ambassadors," he began again, "have you ever really thought of what this 'new' Republic is supposed to stand for? It claims to stand for freedom. Democracy. Equality. After all, it asserted that these very things were missing during the Empire's reign, and it promised to restore these once they were in power."

He paused again to stand in front of them, clasping his hands behind him.

"But let's look at this truthfully. Is it truly democratic? Is it truly representative? How can it be, when a vast number of systems are not even represented in the Senate? In this room alone are nine systems, including ours, who have been set aside by the Republic -- denied admission because it feels that we violate their 'laws' one way or the other. Yes, they claim that they recognize our sovereign right to govern ourselves in the way we see fit. And they claim that they wish to peacefully co-exist with us, but exactly what message are they sending to us? They are denying us admission into their 'democratic' alliance because we choose to follow the traditions and codes that we have followed for centuries."

He then turned his attention to Bendiss. "Madame Ambassador, I know that your world is represented in the Republic, but would you honestly say that it us truly being heard?" He gazed into her eyes, watching the fire emerge in them as he expertly prompted her to react the way he hoped she would. He had known of Cordana's recent controversy in the Senate, and he was going to use this knowledge to his advantage. "Are other smaller worlds truly being heard?" he probed. "Is it not true, Ambassador Bendiss, that in a recent trade dispute with Corellia that the Republic sided with Corellia, a much larger system than yours, and thus more powerful in the Senate?"

Milton saw Sorbin try to suppress a smug smile when he saw Bendiss shift in her seat. He seemed to have struck a chord.

The other delegates were similarly agitated now, and Milton could tell that Sorbin was succeeding in awakening the latent hostility in them. Perhaps they were not fully aware of it until that moment, but at some point, they had each had these same thoughts themselves. And now Sorbin was getting them to act on it...

"The Republic," he began, leaning in closely towards the group, readying his final assault, "is not as strong and as stable as it presents itself to be -- despite all its claims. Let's be honest, beyond the all its gradeur, its 'traditions,' its bodies of law, what is there of substance, really?"

They looked to each other for the answer, but none came forth.

"Truthfully, this Republic is nothing more than a group of idealists -- from Mon Mothma, to Leia Organa Solo, to Karvel Parsis -- who had spent so long fighting a tyrannical government, that it never really learned how to properly run the government it had re-established. They have been so pre-occupied in the last eighteen years with restoring the history and the forgotten glory of the old Republic, that I'm afraid, they have failed to build a government that is strong enough -- stable enough -- for the galaxy.

He sat down once more, the intensity of their eyes on him. "My friends, this assassination attempt was a sign. It is only the beginning, and it illustrates exactly what I have been trying to warn you about -- that this government is not as far away from collapse as you all might think. If things continue as they have been, I foresee much, much chaos in the galaxy."

He leaned back in his chair, awaiting their reaction.

Ambassador Bendiss cleared her throat after some time and sat up once again in her seat. "And what do you propose we do about it, Minister, since I presume you gathered us all here to call us to action?" Something in her eyes had changed now since the beginning of their discussions, and Sorbin was sure that he had indeed succeeded in making her see his point of view.

Once again he smiled his beguiling grin. "Yes, Ambassador Bendiss, you are right, I did bring you all here because I know we can all help each other. What I am about to propose will... shock you perhaps. But I am confident you will see the need for it. I am asking you all here to join me in an alliance. An alliance... to stage a coup of the Republic."

Milton figured that stunned silence would be the response to Sorbin's proposal. He had to admit that even he had his doubts about whether the Prime Minister would succeed in turning the delegates in his favor. But as he looked around the room, he saw a change slowly come over the group, their eyes beginning to come alive with fiery intensity. I can't believe it, Milton thought incredulously. He's actually done it...

"Minister," Hoddee's delegate said finally, breaking the silence in the board room, "I can see how with our combined forces, we could be a match for the Republic... But... What of the Jedi? No coup could ever be truly successful if they are not accounted for."

Sorbin turned to him with a cool smile and nodded in response. "Yes, Ambassador Unar. I have come to the same conclusion. But rest assured, the Jedi will not be a problem for us. If I have each of your assurances to join this alliance I propose, then you have my word that the Jedi will not be a threat to our plans. I have made arrangements to have them... shall we say, taken care of."

Milton resisted the urge to express his shock at Sorbin's ominous statement. He's got this all figured out...

And he wondered when he would finally see all the pieces of the puzzle.

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