for it must have been the Emperor who had decided to spare Coruscant.

Nothing was as it should be. Malgus had intended, had expected, to turn Coruscant into a cinder. He knew the Force intended him to topple the Republic and the corrupt Jedi who led it. His vision had shown him as much.

Instead, the Emperor had given the Republic a slight burn and begun to negotiate.

To negotiate.

A squad of ten Imperial fighters sped past, their wings reflecting the red glow of a nearby medical ships sirens. Smoke plumes from several ongoing fires snaked into the sky.

Malgus might have hoped that the Emperor planned to force the Republic to surrender Coruscant to the Empire, but he knew better. The fleet had temporarily secured the planet, but they did not have the forces to hold it for long. The planet was too big, the population too numerous, for the Imperial fleet to occupy it indefinitely. Even a formal surrender would not end the resistance of Coruscants population, and an insurgency among a population so large would devour Imperial resources.

No, they had to destroy it or return it. And it looked as if the Emperor had decided on the latter, using the threat of the former as leverage in negotiations.

The pilots voice sounded over the intercom. Shall I continue the flyover, my lord?

No. Take me to the Senate Building. Notify Darth Angral of our imminent arrival.

He had seen all he needed to see. Now he needed to hear an explanation.

Peace, he said, the word a curse.

* * *

Zeerid finally noticed the ping from Vultas planetary control. He watched it blink, half dazed, having no idea how long they had been signaling him. He shook his head to clear up his thinking, called up the fake freighter registry Oren had told him to use, ran

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