As the time grew closer for the Emperor’s declaration of the contest, the coliseum grew more and more packed. From the highest private balcony to the standing room at the base of the seats, the huge building was filled to capacity and beyond. Millions more watched on trideo feeds, sending a live broadcast out, even to the fringes of the empire. At the precise scheduled moment, an imposing holographic projection filled the amphitheater. The voice of the ruler of the galaxy boomed through the massive stadium; it was calm and serene, but its underlying power and authority could not be denied.
“Citizens of the Empire, as you know, the office of the Master of Trade, the head of the Trade Commissariat, stands empty. We have determined this to be unacceptable. Ours is a galaxy founded on peace and commerce. Trade is essential to maintaining our peace. We have therefore determined to name a replacement for the office of Star Tsar. Our councilors and the Imperial Senate have each made their recommendations. It is our pleasure, however, to choose a more unorthodox approach. We wish that the Master of Trade be the one known as the best trader in the galaxy. To that end, we do hereby announce a trade competition. From our Office of Legal Matters, you may acquire the specific regulations for this contest, but it is sufficient to say this: all captains will have a short time to reach the registered home world of their ships and complete final preparations. Then go forth into the galaxy; show by word and deed that you are worthy of becoming a master trader. Petition the throne with the evidence of your exploits, and if they please us,” a faint smile came across the Emperor’s face, “we shall give a special challenge. A mission direct from our Imperial Majesty, suitable for a worthy captain.” Murmurs raced through the crowd; none of the rumors had mentioned any special missions. “The first to be found worthy and then complete our final task shall be named as Star Tsar, head of the Trade Commissariat and Master of All Traders.”
The holographic projection looked out across the crowded stands of the amphitheater, its gaze seeming to meet the eyes of everyone there.
“This is our imperial will and pleasure. We seek only the greatest to assume this office; this competition shall determine who that may be.”
The arms of the holographic Emperor reached to the domed ceiling, towering above the throngs of people. His voice rang out, loud and clear:
“LET IT BEGIN.”