Author : Greg R. Fishbone

Three Roman legions swept into the valley from the south. The defenders launched a flight of arrows while a line of pikemen prepared for an onslaught of armored men. The battle raged through the afternoon, but the outcome was never in doubt. The Romans were disciplined, engaged, and absolutely relentless until…

A Roman lieutenant gave a predetermined signal and the army withdrew, leaving a single legionnaire on the battlefield. The lone soldier was quickly surrounded by enemies who kept a respectful distance, suspecting a trick or a trap.

The Roman soldier removed a strange instrument from his belt. The item was less than two hands long and thinner than a human finger, with an opening on one end and a button on the other. The soldier held the item out and turned slowly in a circle. The enemies raised their spears but did not advance. “What magic is this?” their bearded leader sneered.

CLICK-CLICK. The enemies flinched at the sound, but relaxed when no effect was apparent. CLICK-CLACK. Again the men looked around, expecting one of their number to drop, but again there was no effect. CLICK-CLICK, CLICK-CLACK, CLICK-CLICK.

“Your gods have abandoned you, Romanus. Your weapon has no power against us.”

The soldier pressed the button again and again with increasing desperation. CLICK-CLACK, CLICK-CLICK, CLICK-CLACK. Emboldened enemies pressed in from all sides. CLICK-CLICK, CLICK-CLACK, CLICK-CLICK, CLICK-CLACK. Swords, spears, and daggers separated the legionnaire from his life. His powerless instrument dropped to the ground.

On a rise above the battlefield, the Roman general gave a sad shake of his head. He addressed a captive, bound in ropes. “Your deception is revealed, Mr. Time Traveler. Your retractable ballpoint pen is not, actually, mightier than the sword.” To emphasize his point he raised his blade and chopped downward at the unfortunate captive’s neck.

The Roman army advanced again, finishing what they had started by more conventional means. By sundown, the valley was theirs.

That night, a single legionnaire snuck out of camp and returned to the battlefield. He retrieved the discarded pen and brought it back to his tent. In the firelight he began to write a book that would one day make him Emperor of the World: “Gallia est omnis divisa in partes tres…”


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