Hem began explaining their problem. "Now, we can both agree that Duke Holmstet's speech was a blatant power grab.How do you avoid signing that bill, while still maintaining your integrity in front of the Council? Do we even have other options at this moment?"
Theodat did not answer for some time, his finger idly tracing a pattern on the table's surface. "I worry for the Empire, cousin. We are…..in a time of great uncertainties. An alien species of which we know almost nothing has destroyed one of our worlds. The Mandate have annexed the planet of Never-Look-Back, a planet with no resources other than its plentiful harvest. With no strategic value except as a jumping off point into Antian space. A planet whose independence we had guaranteed for the last 200 years."
In his address to the Empire, the Lord Protector Holmstet had revealed that the Qzin had assaulted an Antian planet and that Mandate forces had entered the Antian Quadrant. He had closed with a request for more power to be granted to the Lord Protectorship so that he could assemble yet another fleet to face this new threat.
For Theodat and Hem, time was running out. Awakening Emperor Xylus was now even more important than ever.
They fleshed out their plan to awaken the Emperor. Theodat had managed to access the Imperial Archives and told Hem that the Imperial Spire, the most heavily guarded and magicked building in the Empire, could be breached – from below.
This would require a submarine entry through Antia City's aquifers, a harrowing journey through the supposedly Vacla Orathan infested crypts below the Spire, and breaching the magical barriers that safeguarded the Spire's interior.
None of this would be possible without a good team. Theodat and Hem set themselves to dividing up the tasks of recruitment and obtaining supplies.
Theodat and Hem's meeting had not gone unoticed, and people who would rather see the Duke of Kadwyn and his cousin in an early grave had snuck an Our'ethan wearing a suicide vest into the tower.
The Our'ethan stood, hiding his hands under his long coat. They were shaking. He had spent all of two weeks steeling himself up for what he had to do. He didn't have a choice. They'd kill his family if he didn't do what they want. He looked down the hallway, seeing the lift that had taken up away from the 121st floor, the floor that the bar he was supposed to destroy was. The explosive vest around his chest felt oppressively tight. He didn't have a choice. He activated the explosive vest and felt his thumb press down on the detonator. All he had to do was lift it.
Now…..to enter the lift, and head back down to the bar.
Step after step
He felt his chest tightening, constricting. Sweat dripped down his nose.
"You alright, lad?" A security guard, Etre'al. Eyes looking at him full of concern.
"Y-yes." He tried to smile. It came out more as a grimace. He needed to throw up. But he couldn't. If he could just get into the lift.
He wheeled away from the guard, stumbling over his own feet. He caught himself, and saw the lift doors open. Barging in, he tripped over a Drr'athan boy, hardly five years of age. There was an entire family in the lfit. He hadn't seen them. He stumbled and fell, clasping a handrail with both hands, to prevent himself from striking the metal floor. His detonator fell out of his sleeve and hit the floor, rolling away from him. The button no longer pressed down.
Time froze. And an eon came and went.
Theodat felt the explosion as much as he heard it. The shockwave tore through the bar, ripping through the ceiling and then through the floor. Glass shattered and the heat blistered his hastily thrown up hands. Then he was flying backwards….backwards….
A column halted his flight. He couldn't feel anything. He couldn't hear. He tried moving his limbs, feeling panic beginning to lance through his body. Or was it pain? Blood dribbled down his nose and his lips.
It was pain tearing through him now. His limbs were afire, his body screaming that something had gone horribly wrong. Theodat screwed up his eyes – there was too much light. Too bright.
He let himself slip away into the soft embrace of unconsciousness, as the first emergency vehicles began to arrive.