Author: Julian Miles, Staff Writer
They rally about their standard bearer and draw swords – swords! – It’s 2894, not 894, you fanatiki. After screaming their ancient slogans of hatred, they switch to Ido so they can hurl challenges toward the armeo that surrounds them.
Mesmol turns to me.
“Kolonelo, some of our soldati would like to face them.”
I shake my head and link myself to every being in my command.
“The challenges form part of their creed, the Verlorene Ursache. To accept is to validate one of the main tenets of the Lost Cause.”
There are assorted replies, all emphatic refutation. I switch my link back to oficiri only.
“Mesmol, sentence them.”
He straightens up and steps forward. The cheers of my soldati drown out the jeering of the rabble at bay in our midst. Raising both arms, palms outward, he recites the decree we all learn in our first week of basic training.
“Know you, servants of the Konföderierte Reich, that the Confederate Empire has been deemed intolerable by humankind, and by all sentients known to us. Have you any reply before we enact the penalty for your crimes?”
There is a mandated single Earth minute pause between condemnation and execution. Into that silence steps one man. He tosses his helm aside to reveal a shaven, white-skinned head with an intricate circular design tattooed in red ink stretching from forehead to crown.
Sonnemensch! I never expected to find one of their shamans here. Devotee of the Unsichtbar Sonne – the Invisible Sun, the Thirteenth Shadow. Of all the darknesses in this universe, they carry one even blacker.
He raises his hand in salute and someone takes the raised arm, and his head, clean off with a beamer just as he opens his mouth.
I link to every being and utter the necessary words: “A reply has been made.”
When the bright light fades, there’s nothing but smoking ashes where they stood. I switch links again.
“Mesmol, start formal handover to the local impero. I’ll be along shortly.”
I walk slowly through the departing ranks to where the shaman had stood. Reaching down, I brush charred remains aside until I can retrieve the necklace I expected to find. Another one to be shot into the star of an uncharted system. Once again, I pause to watch the twelve-part circular sigil spin, wondering where they found the material these are made of, and how they managed to shape something we’ve had to resort to throwing into stars to get rid of. Once again, I have nothing but a trite response first uttered so long ago we’ve lost its origin: ‘the only answer to the coldest sun is a hot one’.
We all know the history. On my way from Soldato to Kolonelo, I’ve looked deep into the malaise that has haunted us for so long. Their sinioro spoke of a ‘thousand-year empire’. Many ridiculed him when he was defeated after barely a dozen years.
They failed to grasp what he had. In a moment of unspeakable insight, he saw that what he had given form to would last a thousand years. It took us nine centuries to realise the only way to defeat this is to eradicate it. In the 62 years since then, we’ve hunted with a zeal that has been said to exceed that of those we pursue. Which, in some ways, is true: my soldati and I believe that for the many to live in peace, with basic needs met for all, a few must defend that society with a savagery alien to the tenets that guide it.