Sovenal was rushing toward the ministerial platform when he brushed roughly up against a burly man hurrying in the opposite direction. They might have muttered something–maybe a curse, maybe an apology–but the martial music outside was too loud to make anything out for sure. Abruptly, Sovenal’s pace slowed as he neared his destination, and he couldn’t suppress a ragged cough.

Among the crowd below, Gelnika strained to see what was happening on and around the balcony of the People’s Palace. He could see Tavis, the smug bastard, standing beside the Minister, but there was no sign of Sovenal or any of his men. When the minister stepped froward to speak, there was no mention of Secretary Tavis’ treachery or the last-minute appeal from Ambassador Ijke. Instead, he heaped a fiery call to arms on the populace and troops below, calling for a swift attack by bayonet and shock on enemies of the state. Not only that, but the troops assembled for the National Day celebration were to march directly to the front.

“What the hell happened?” Gelnika hissed into his radio. “Sovenal!”

No reply but static.

Once the square had cleared out, with the troops off to their slaughter and the populace off to their celebration, Gelnika slid through a gap in the Palace fence and began scouring the grounds for any trace of Sovenal. He found the Undersecretary lying on the floor a few dozen yards from the ministerial balcony.

Sovenal had bled out through a carefully aimed small-caliber shot to his femoral artery.