Author : J.R. Blackwell, Staff Writer

Jack hated the Minotaur. Ever since he’d gotten off the silver bus to basic training at White Hook, the Minotaur had picked on him. At the Imperial recruitment office, Jack was told that he had some of the highest scores on physical, mental and social tests of any new recruit. The Minotaur, Jacks superior officer, was in charge of his group of trainees. Jack wasn’t used to doing poorly, but at White Hook, he always came last.

The Minotaur picked apart Jack’s bunk, dumping his things on the floor. The Minotaur ordered Jack to take double shifts guarding the barracks. Jack’s shooting wasn’t good enough, even when other recruits, whose scores were lower than his, were getting pats on the back by the cloven-hoofed bully. When they were sparring, Jack’s stance was never good enough, his bones were always broken first. Jack knew he looked like the worst in his group of recruits, the most likely to wash out.

When Jack was picked again to lug around the gear, after two nights of no sleep, he decided he couldn’t be last again. He ran as hard as his body would let him. This time, he would win. Even after black spots appeared in front of his vision and his chest and legs were crying with pain. He ran until he collapsed.

When Jack woke up in the infirmary, there was a silver locket around his neck. Inside there was a picture of a little girl, surrounded by a flurry of snow. Her dusty brown hair swirled around her face. She was laughing. Alone in the infirmary for two days, Jack would look at the girl, the only beautiful thing in this awful place.

When he got back to the barracks others tried to take it from him. He never showed it to anyone, but somehow everyone seemed knew he had it. People offered him food for the locket, then money and then, they threatened him. The locket was the only thing that really belonged to him, and Jack swore never to let anyone take it from him. He found, from multiple fights, that he was stronger than most of the guys from carrying the heaviest packs, he could fight better, he could take a beating better.

At graduation, the Minotaur asked if he still had the locket. When Jack showed it to him, the Minotaur pulled out a locket of his own, and opened it. Inside was a picture of the Emperor.

“When I was in basic, I was pushed harder. My superior gave me this locket after beating the piss out of me. After I graduated, he told me he had given it to me because he thought I might be worthy to guard the Emperor with my life. I spent twenty years in the royal guard and longer here, training young people to protect the Empire.”

“But this isn’t the Emperor. This is just a little girl.”

The Minotaur cut him off. ” You’re right, it’s not the Emperor. It’s his daughter, the future Empress.”

“No offense Sir, but I thought you hated me.”

“I knew you were special about you the moment you came out of the bus. I want you to go to the planet Crey where the royal guard is trained. You may die there. It will be harder than what you went though here, more challenging. You’ll have the honor of being changed for your duty, new genetics, cybernetic enhancements.”

“I might come out a minotaur?”

“Whatever your Empire needs, that’s what you’ll be. Are you prepared?”

“Sir, I’m ready for anything.”

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