Chapter 41

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Municipate Adjooto sat in a dimly lit conference room in the heart of the Minuchu administrative building, awaiting the Premier's call. He supposed the Premier might communicate via an aide, given the cryptic message arranging the call. Yet events were unravelling quickly, and the Premier was likely to give this call his personal touch. At least Aviri had assured him of as much when she insisted he take the call. So far she had demonstrated a remarkable, if optimistic, grasp of politics.

The holocom chirped and the caller ID flashed on his cyes. Blocked. This was it. Adjooto waved his hand to pick up the call and the hologram of Premier Mubatoo shimmered in front of him. That steady gaze, that posture of authority, leaning in hungrily towards him. Adjooto made a mock bow. "To what do I enjoy the great honor of your holopresence, Premier Mubatoo?"

"Sugar coating your lies may win over the slow-witted rabble, but such effort is wasted on me, Adjooto."

"You never cease to delight me, Premier."

"And now it is your turn to delight me, snake. What misguided impudence possessed you to demonstrate in the streets, poisoning the minds of the people against me?"

"The people are not ours to fool, Mubatoo, they are ours to serve."

"I suppose I should thank you for causing an insurrection in the streets?"

"I am merely an expression of the people's will-"

"Enough. Your political career is over. I will see to that personally. Your next speech will assuage hearts and minds, at which point you will yield the podium to me in a gesture of goodwill. You will do all of this or you can watch me bathe the streets with the blood of Rodia Prima. Either way, it does not matter to me."

"An ultimatum? You must be in a weak position indeed to threaten my career and my life, yet offer nothing in return. Perhaps it is because you have nothing to offer?"

"I never expected you, Adjooto, of all the political slugs on this planet, to choose martyrdom. No matter. From this moment onward, you're a walking corpse."

The Premier's shimmering hologram disintegrated, and Adjooto leaned back in his chair. He heard the room's doors whisk aside, and saw the cloaked figure of Jedi Master Aviri entering the room.

"I thought I handled that rather well," Adjooto said, half self-congratulatory and half fishing for compliments from his audience. "From pleasantries to death threats in under a minute."

"Yes, you do have a...remarkable way with people," Aviri replied.

"Was that a wisecrack from our earnest Jedi? I must be rubbing off on you. Cherish the thought." A moment of silence passed between them and a cloud passed over Adjooto's face. "You're certain that the military is on our side?" Adjooto asked.

Aviri said nothing, and simply nodded. "Good." Adjooto continued, "They'll still offer him a brute squad to disperse the crowd?"

Again Ariri nodded distantly. "My contacts have seen to that," she replied.

"Excellent." Adjooto licked his lips. "His back is against the wall now. He'll have to use the brute squad to intimidate me, or risk emboldening me further. But a few bloody noses won't stop me, not when I know the military does not support him. And from the perspective of the masses, nothing inflames the soul like the fist of government wielded unjustly against you."

"Which is why it must be wielded carefully, infrequently and decisively," Aviri interjected.

"I am quite certain I will get the hang of it," Adjooto retorted, swinging his fist. "Ah, what's this-" A news flicker appeared on Adjooto's cyes, alerting him that Krul's next trial was about to begin. Adjooto flipped the vid to the appropriate feed and then reached for a bowl of lashka berries.

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