desk in a crystal decanter. Two chalices sat beside it, both half full with the rare, pale yellow spirit. Angral knew that Malgus did not drink alcohol.

Two large, high-backed leather chairs sat before the desk, their backs to the doorway. Anyone could have been seated in them. Behind the desk, a floor-to-ceiling transparisteel window looked out on the urbanscape. Plumes of black smoke curled into a night sky mostly empty of ships and underlit by the many fires burning across the planet. To Malgus, the black lines of smoke looked like the scribbles of giants. A maze of duracrete buildings extended out to the horizon.

Darth Malgus, Angral said, and gestured at one of the chairs. Please sit.

Words burst from Malgus before he could stop them. We hold Coruscant in our fist and need only squeeze. Yet I understand that peace negotiations are continuing.

Angral did not look surprised at the outburst. He sipped his blossom wine, put the chalice back down. Your understanding is correct.

Why? Malgus put an accusation in the question. The Republic is on its knees before us. If we stab it, it dies.

Using it as a lever in peace negotiations

Peace is for bureaucrats! Malgus blurted, too hard, too loud. It is not for warriors.

Still Angrals face held its calm. You question the wisdom of the Emperor?

The words cooled Malguss heat. He took hold of his temper. No. I do not question the Emperor.

Im pleased to hear it. Now sit, Malgus. Angrals tone left no doubt that the words were not a suggestion.

Malgus picked his way through the artwork. Before he had gotten halfway across the office, Angral said, Adraas has beaten you here.

Malgus stopped. What?

Adraas rose from one of the chairs before the desk, revealing himself,

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