Week 40, 2019
In the post of an agency chief El enjoyed a life of luxury well beyond the grasp of the ordinary plebian, and though the demands on his time had lessened, he filled his days with attention to duty, examining and reexamining the reports he was fed from those beneath him in the administration.
He was old, though he did not feel it, and he thought this would be the pattern for the rest of his life.
He believed that he had finally arrived at a place where he could use his influence, and management to improve the lives of the people; there food supply, their access to clean water, and medicine, leisure time and rest.
El was transforming the world he managed into a haven of tranquility.
He was wrong.
In his tenth year as Planetary Secretary, he received orders to report to a military entrance processing station. The Empire ordered him to service, taking away his hope for a better world.
His people reacted with a mixture of dismay and veneration.
He did not balk, or look back.
He resigned his office without fanfare or ceremony.
He had no family to say goodbye to.
He was ninety years old.
He became a foot soldier, entering a new way of life.
He received the blessing of the Temple, and once again his elevation to a higher class and different caste was met with awe by the audience who followed his story.
Then he went to war.
He served in the infantry with distinction. El was a brilliant combat engineer, as fearless as he was tireless.
He risked everything for his comrades, putting their safety and security above his own, falling back on the instinct and experience that had made him the greatest rebel commander in memory. Now he turned his guns on rebels throughout the Empire. He was relentless when called to be, and merciful when he could be. After one year in combat they pulled him off the line, the Collective loved his heroism, but feared for his life. They did not want to see him lose it in hand to hand combat.
El was a shining star, but displayed too much gallantry. This put him at odds with his fellows, it unnerved the Collective.
There were too many moments in which he hesitated in combat, giving his opponent a chance to surrender before the kill.
Those watching him often experienced these moments as judgement on them.
He volunteered for every mission. Sometimes entering two or three engagements in a single week.
When he was wounded he went to hospital, got sewn up and returned the next day for duty.
His life was now the armed forces.
As old as he was, he looked forward to ending it there.
El pursed his duties like he had in the bureaucracy. He was single minded and focused, determined to set an example for everyone he served with, to his commanders and to all of the people he knew were watching his life through the Imperial networks.
He believed that his life had been spared for a reason, and he had been blessed with longevity so that he could fulfill it.
If the Gods wanted him dead they would take him. If they wanted him alive they would spare him.
He thought nothing of it.
When the command pulled him off the line, they raised him in rank and made him a yeoman.
This was a bitter disappointment to El.
El’s former life in the bureaucracy could not be considered as real experience or earn him a promotion as a yeoman because it was experience from a lower caste, it meant nothing to the military command.
Nevertheless, serving in the bureaucracy prepared him for the work in front of him, and he came to it as a celebrated war hero, decorated and wildly popular with the media, he was able to implement processes that streamlined the way records were kept, transferred, accessed and compiled.
El had reveled in the exploits of the infantry, the comradeship, but he did not resent the break or the rest. He had not enjoyed the killing, or watching his fellows die.
His audience, both in the Empire and in the Collective, grew tired of watching him shuffle papers again. Having seen him as a soldier and a hero, the Collective was not satisfied with his return to normalcy, and the Continuum was eager to push his experience and the narrative it produced to new places.
They wanted more from him.
He went back to wars as a medic, the most dangerous of all professions in the military.
He studied for it.
He trained with the same zeal he brought to all of his endeavors.
He took his oath, dedicating himself to the preservation of life. He took it seriously, and he risked his own life time and time again, suffering serious injuries to recover the fallen, whether they were soldiers of the Empire, or rebels.
Everyone was a citizen he told himself, belonging together as conjoined links in the great chain of being, and he was there for them, for each of them. Like himself, every rebel had a story to tell and every one of them could be redeemed.
As a rebel, and a soldier he had mastered his feelings of fear. He set fear aside and treated it like a curiosity. Fear was nothing more than an itch in the mind, it was a tickle that could easily be ignored.
While a prisoner under torture fear vanished from him altogether. Even pain became an experience that measured as near to nothing. Only life mattered, the preservation of it, the risking of it, or the elimination of it, whatever was called for in the moment.
He answered the call of duty dispassionately.
As a medic El never shrank from danger. He ran to the aid of the fallen, crawling to them if he had to. He did whatever he could while his limbs could propel him.
He was a paragon of virtue.
His audience loved him, they worshipped his willingness to sacrifice himself for the sake of his comrades.
The command rewarded him time and time again, holding him in the highest esteem, and they continued to decorate him, engagement after engagement, wound after wound.
It propelled him to glory, but it also awakened him to the suffering of others.
He did not shrink from opportunities to be merciful to the enemy.
This set a poor example in the minds of his superiors, but the Collective loved it.
After he had completed a thousand missions, and Continuum was satisfied that they had squeezed every last thing out of his current story ark. They promoted him to the rank of officer, gave him a commission as a member of the cavalry.
He returned once again to training, learning the complex controls of the war machines, he became a pilot.
In the cavalry El mastered every type of combat craft; land, sea, air and space. It was another long period of arduous training. He spent years of his life learning all the technical details of the equipment he operated, their munitions, how to repair them, maneuver them and use them for deadly effect.
He became a weapons master of the first order, an Equestrian, a knight.
His experience as a master of cavalry combined with his years of experience in the infantry; both as a combat engineer and as a medic, made him the most highly trained member of the armed forces there had ever been.
The ease with which he learned the controls, and the rapidity in which his skills developed into something like artistry was shocking to his trainers, they had never seen anything like it before.
Their observations substantiated the myths that were constantly perpetuated about him.
People believed he was descended from the gods, a child of the gods, the believed that he had come back to the Empire from the Continuum, to live with them, to observe them, to share their pain.
His comrades worshipped him like a god as well, whether they believed in his divinity or not. They wanted nothing more than to fly missions with him and watch him fight.
El loved flying, being at the controls of the greatest vehicles that had ever been constructed.
He loved flying in the quiet of space, he loved to watch the silent explosion of energy weapons and the quick fires bursting from breached hulls in the vacuum of space, he loved the beauty of the bright lights and flashing colors.
Those moments were freeing, they gave him pause to contemplate his extraordinarily long-life.
He retired from combat as the Empires greatest Ace; living or dead.
He had been deployed in countless engagements, on thousands of worlds.
He was a suppressor of conflict.
His heroic image was brighter than a star going nova.
Rebel squadrons would surrender when they knew he was in the field.
He was a harbinger of victory.
Cults of worship formed around him.
Even past the age of one hundred years, he maintained the strength and vigor of a man in his prime. This was interpreted as evidence of his divinity.
Many of his superiors were jealous, and some of his contemporaries as well. The jealous wanted to eliminate him, which was a part of the reason he saw so much combat.
The conservatives simply wanted to return him to the bureaucracy, to take the limelight away from him and groom him for command
They pulled El from combat and made him an aide de camp.
They told him that with his experience, in this new position he would be able to actualize the full range of his talents in service to the Empire.
While this was less entertaining for the Collective, the Continuum saw the potential for an even greater narrative to manifest itself through the exploitation of his unique position.
Together they were creating the greatest single story the Collective had ever absorbed, and it was the only narrative running that could compete for the attention of the membership with the drama and intrigue that flowed from the planet Earth.
When El was elevated to the Imperial Command, the whispering about him among the worlds of the Empire became harder to ignore. People began to truly believe the rumors that he was of the Continuum, that he was a divine being, an angelic messenger, a scion of the gods, those rumors became more and more concretized in the minds of the people, until they became an actual part of his narrative.
His promotion to Field Marshall precipitated chaos in the Imperial Cult, in the centers of command, and in the royal court.
El thought nothing of those whispers, he acted as if he could not hear them.
He followed orders.
When he was in command, he followed protocol.
In everything he did he allowed himself to be governed by others.
He accepted his position in life, rising to the challenges set before him.
It was as if he were a party to his life, merely an observer of it.
As a general he became the greatest peacemaker the Empire had ever seen.
He resolved conflicts merely by showing up.
Abuses of power, matters that had been routine in the years before he took command of the Imperial Armies, they all but disappeared.
He was temperate.
He was just.
And his story began to lose its luster.
Part Six, The Empire
Chapter Thirty-eight, General
A Novel – In One Chapter Per Week
#Emergence #ShortFiction #365SciFi #OneChapterPerWeek
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