was lit, so night did not hide the destruction. A haze of smoke hung like a funeral shroud over the still smoldering ruins. The air carried the faint, sickly sweet tang of burned bodies and melted plastoid. He tried to guess the number of the dead: in the tens of thousands, certainly. A hundred thousand? He could not know. He did know that it should have been billions.

Shafts of steel stuck like bones out of piles of shattered duracrete. Here and there droid-assisted excavation teams sifted through the rubble, seeking survivors or bodies. Frightened faces turned up to watch the transport pass.

You should be dead, Malgus said to them. Not merely frightened.

Quadrant after quadrant of Coruscant had been reduced to rubble.

But not enough of it.

Most buildings still stood and most of the planets people still lived. The Republic had been wounded, but not killed.

And there was nothing more dangerous than a wounded animal.

Malgus had difficulty containing the anger he felt. His fist reflexively clenched and unclenched.

He had been misled. Worse, he had been betrayed. A score of his warriors had died for no reason other than to strengthen the Empires negotiating posture.

Sirens screamed in the distance, barely audible over the wind. Far off, unarmed Republic medical ships whirred through the sky. Speeders and swoops dotted the air here and there, the traffic light and haphazard.

Malgus had learned that Darth Angral had dissolved the Senate and declared martial law. But with the planet pacified, Angral had allowed rescuers to save whom they could. Malgus imagined that Angral would soon allow free civilian movement. Life would start again on Coruscant. Malgus did not understand Angrals thinking.

No. He did not understand the Emperors thinking,

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