It was fortunate for Golan Trevize that there was nobody standing in his way as he walked the corridors of the Ministry of Defense, for if there had been, he would have bumped into them. His attention was completely focused on his escort, Lt. Herris Mindollo of the Comporellian Security Force.
"Would you mind very much repeating that, Lt. Mindollo?"
The security officer clearly did not mind at all. "I said that you have been chosen to replace Goron Bek as Minister of Defense."
"How in the Galaxy did that happen?"
"In the usual fashion," said Mindollo. "After the position was made vacant by Bek's arrest, the First Minister appointed someone else to fill it. In this case, you."
"Why would First Minister Erkar make me his Defense Minister?"
"First Minister Erkar didn't."
By now, Trevize's mind had begun working well enough for him to figure out what Lt. Mindollo was getting at. He said, "Because Dinnis Erkar isn't First Minister anymore."
Mindollo nodded. "Citizen Erkar has chosen to retire permanently to his vacation home on the Southern Peninsula. His successor is waiting to meet you in your new office."
And then the two men were standing in front of the door to that office. The white-on-gray words had already been changed from "Goron Bek, Min-Def" to "Golan Trevize, Min-Def". Lt. Mindollo touched the lettering, which glowed briefly, and then the door slid open.
The cavernous office within was the same, but the figure standing beside the desk was not Goron Bek. Instead, as Trevize had somehow been half expecting, it was Mitza Lizalor.
Mindollo saluted Lizalor and said, "First Minister, I present Minister Trevize."
Lizalor nodded to Mindollo and said, "I thank you, Lieutenant. Please remain with us for a moment."
"Yes, ma'am," Mindollo responded crisply as he stood at attention.
"Golan Trevize," Lizalor continued, "on behalf of the Emergency Policy Formulation Group and the citizens of the Commonwealth of Comporellon, I hereby nominate you for the position of Minister of Defense. Do you swear to fulfill the duties and obligations incumbent upon the office of Minister of Defense, to uphold the laws of the Commonwealth of Comporellon, and to defend the Commonwealth against all foes, foreign and domestic?"
"I do," said Trevize.
"Then Golan Trevize, I hereby appoint you to the position of Minister of Defense for the Commonwealth of Comporellon." Stepping forward, Lizalor took Trevize by the shoulders and bestowed a formal kiss upon each cheek. Trevize was half tempted to kneel down like a character from an Imperial drama. Instead, he returned Lizalor's formal kisses and took a step back. Lt. Mindollo saluted Trevize, then turned sharply on his heel and left the room.
As soon as the door had shut behind them, Trevize found himself buried under Mitza Lizalor's fierce embrace, and the kisses she bestowed upon him were considerably more than a formality. Trevize returned her embrace with equal feeling, and the two remained that way for a long time.
Finally, Mitza pulled back enough to look him in the face, and said, "You, Golan my love, are the most irrepressible madman I have ever met in my life! Sending Bek a report accusing him of sabotaging the Gravitics Project!"
"I take it you've read it, then," said Trevize.
Lizalor shook her head, but Trevize knew she was confirming his guess. "The sheer brazen effrontery of it! Magnificent! Impossible! You mad fool!" She threw her arms around him again, and it was all that Trevize could do to keep her from crushing the life out of him. "Whatever possessed you to do such a thing?"
When Trevize had recovered his breath, he said, "I knew that if I didn't accuse one of my team, Bek would have me arrested and executed. I also knew that I didn't have it in me to sacrifice one of my men to save myself. At that point, I knew I was doomed, so I decided I might as well go out in a blaze of glory. Also, it would probably be my only chance to let Bek know what I really thought of him, and I couldn't pass that up!
"Just out of curiosity," he added, "how did you come to read it?"
Lizalor was silent for a time, then she said, "After Erkar let Bek steal you from me, I knew I could expect no help from the First Minister. At that point, there was only one man in the Presidium who would be able to help me."
"The Minister of State Security," said Trevize.
"The same," said Lizalor. "Security and Defense have always been rivals within the Presidium, and with Bek in control of the Gravitics Project, it was clear that Defense was in the ascendant. I went to Minister Banasek and offered an alliance. If he gained me access to the contents of Bek's computer, I would provide him with evidence that would allow him to discredit Bek and Erkar both. He agreed, and I set about finding him his evidence."
Trevize said, "And the evidence you showed him was directive DM-322-308-1."
"Correct." Lizalor shook her head again in disbelief. "I will never understand how you were able to persuade him to issue such an incriminating document. And if anything else were needed, your final report denouncing Bek was it. Minister Banasek told me that your final report alone would have convinced him of the need to eliminate Bek. He was dubious at first about my plan to set you in Bek's place, but your report convinced him of that as well. He spoke eloquently in praise of your courage."
"And he also knows about our affair," said Trevize.
That brought Lizalor up short. "What makes you say that?"
"It stands to reason. Why would he allow you to become First Minister, and me to become head of a rival Ministry, unless he had some sort of hold over both of us? And the most obvious hold would be knowledge and evidence of an illicit affair between the two of us. All he has to do is reveal our wrongdoing to the populace at large, and the two of us will find ourselves out of power just as surely as Erkar and Bek are now."
The look on Mitza Lizalor's face made Trevize wish his intuition wasn't so infallible.