Chapter 44: "Democracy: the flaws of many pollute the brilliance of the few."

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"This is ridiculous!" a man's voice cried out. "The girl's insane! She's well known as a liar and a thief. Throw her in the cells and be done with her, as should have been done a long time ago!"

Ella saw the speaker when he moved from behind King Garrand's shadow.

It was the politician, Sharn, the man who had opposed her foster father's policies for as long as she had been on Farsalt.

A man she had known for years. The man whose youngest son was outside, being conscripted to join the stormtrooper program.

A man who knew her.

And yet he was . . . lying?

"Look at her," the man continued. "She's barely more than a vagrant, fleeing from one place to another with torn clothes and a tongue filled with lies to feed her."

Sarn smiled. "And yet she is a . . . what did you say? A Jedi?"

"She is a troubled girl, Commodore Sarn. There is no more to it." Queen Myr turned her gaze dismissively away from Ella and back to the throne. "If you wish to, have her locked up. Or take her with you. Or shoot her, if you really must. But as a mother, as a queen, I do beg you for the lives of my people. They have done nothing to warrant any collective punishment. My own daughter is missing out there, and we are denied the ability to mount a search due to your occupation. Do what you will and let me find her!"

"Yes. It is a weakness found throughout the galaxy," Sarn said. "All sentient races prize the lives of their young above their own."

"To recognise that fact you obviously have children of your own," Queen Myr said. "If you want evidence of Mazier's treachery, then I think I can find it for you. If you want evidence of Farsalt's involvement with the rebellion, then there is none to be found, or not in the way you suspect it. Yes, we have helped the vulnerable and the ill whenever we could. Yes, we have even taken those harmed in conflicts with the empire - as well as the rebellion. And yes . . . yes . . . we have taken those the emperor would have rather seen executed."

Queen Myr sank to her knees.

"But so much of what we have done has been done with the emperor's own consent! Farsalt has provided a solution to him for his problems. Our hospitality under his auspices has deprived his enemies of rallying support. Surely that is not to be ignored?"

"This is true, Commodore Sarn," Sharn said, stepping toward the throne. "My own party has opposed the government of King Garrand for more than a decade. We have always proposed closer ties with the empire. You cannot condemn a whole planet to collective punishment when so many of us are democratically opposed to the actions of a ruling class–"

"Democracy?" Sarn interrupted. "That antiquated system is what gave rise to the Clone Wars and the final death of the Republic. It is a system where the flaws of the many pollute the brilliance of the few. And like you said, the policies of King Garrand have been supported by the majority of your people at the ballot box. It was a collective decision. Ergo, it will be a collective punishment. Now, I will return to my ship." He motioned to the Imperial captain who stood at his side. "Captain Alain will see my commands are carried out."

The stormtroopers cleared a path for Commodore Sarn as he marched through the auditorium.

As he passed Ella, he stopped suddenly.

"And you, my dear young . . . padawan," he smirked. "There is someone aboard my ship who will be very interested in meeting you. Let us hope for your sake that you are genuinely insane. Lock them up with the other vermin, and inform the Assayer we have a suspect."

Ella felt his eyes linger on her.

"The Sith will most enjoy interrogating you."

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The heading of this chapter is a phrase I believe I have invented and I am quite proud of it as it says so much about the prevailing philosophy of the Empire and its officials: that democracy in the Republic failed and had to be replaced with Palpatine's total control, delivered through the Imperial military. It gives license to atrocity and abuse and justifies it in the eyes of the perpetrators.

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