Ex Nihilo, Short Stories, The Augmented World

Ex Nihilo – The Legate of Terra

The feature that is most impressive about the very impressive room are the windows. It’s not quite clear from what material they are made, as the designer followed the age old principle that delicacy is elegance. That principle also states that the less you see of something while it still serves its purpose, the more prestigious and costly that something is. And thus, instead of blocks of glass which speak of industrial power or harsh blinds that whisper of privacy, a shimmering, silk thin surface separates the room from the outside. Outside, a storm rages, the high winds of this part of Terra hounding the walls of the Central Government complex, screaming impotent rage against the flexible structures. The combination of the storm and the very small distance which separates room from frost is quite intoxicating, the body constantly pumping adrenaline to what it sees as an embattled form. Thusly sits Markushio, Adjutant to the Colonies from the Legate, may the mountains of Otramontani keep his strength. His pupils dilated, his pulse accelerated, his palms sweaty, in short his soldier’s body prepped for a fight that it will not get.

Instead, a much more dangerous predator sits across the filed wood desk. The Legate himself, may the forests of The Grand Duchy of Italia preserve his sight, has called him back from his post on Io. The Adjutant, no invocations needed after his name, has a very good idea of why he was called back and that idea now becomes a reality when the Legate says: “Markushio, listen. I don’t blame you for what you did. You were following protocol, I understand that. But, listen” the large man stands and walks towards him now, wrapped in the blue robes marked with countless symbols, sigils and sashes which signify his utmost rank “listen, this man which you have delayed, this crew which you have submitted to inspection, this ship which you attempted to impound, these things do no fall under protocol. Do you understand?”. Markushio narrows his eyes now, placing a firm hand on his baton, symbol of his own not-so-low rank. He turns to face the Legate, blessed be his shoulders by the predators of the Steppes, who has moved slightly to his right, and tries to get his body under control. His muscles are locking up, aching to run away/into the storm outside. Breathing deeply, he says “Legate, I understand. In the future, I will resort to wartime code in order to…”

The echoing boom of the Legate’s fist smashing into the table stops his tongue. “No, you fool! There is no code you can turn to. There is no clause, no article, no command, no provision under Terran law that pertains to these people! Listen to me carefully now. I am the Legate. My name is venerated across this planet, and rightfully so! I have restored Lost Terra to its former grandeur, hell, my father was the one who rediscovered our ancient home! This you know. But you don’t know what happened on the night that I first raised my banner”. A sharp intake of breath from the Adjutant causes the Legate to pause and smile. He knows, both of them know,that this is sacrosanct, that this is mythos, that this is a point in history that lurks in the back of the Terran collective unconscious and which no one touches. And yet, the Legate, prowess of the British Valley envelop him, continues. He says “That night, no storm raged. It was a clear evening and I was standing on a hill not far from here” (actually right there, thinks the Adjutant to himself, gazing at a hill shrouded with banners across from him, barely visible in the storm but well lit with flood lights) “and I was alone. You know this story up until now but here’s where it diverges from the popular form told in schools.

I had no idea what to do. Sure, I had a fleet and I had crushed the Secessionists but I had no idea how to rule. To rule you need law and for law you need language and these are things we did not have. Only the smattering of Galactic and only the half remembered codices of ship’s regulations. And suddenly, there was a flash in the night sky and I found myself on a ship but unlike one I had ever seen. Its curves, the impossibly silent engines, the sigils covering every wall. One of those sigils, three words in Galactic, finally gave me their identity and I nearly fainted, hanging on to my banner in order not to fall. This was a ship from Heart”. Here the Adjutant gasped, as pieces were starting to collapse into place within his mind. Is it possible that not only the Legate, fortified by the stones of the Iberian Crater may he ever be, but him as well, just now, on Io, had they both encountered the fabled ships from Heart? It seemed impossible but now the Legate was speaking again and his mind turned to his words: “As if that was not enough, I now recognized footsteps heading towards me and I could see the black-green robes and I could hear the singing and I knew, somehow I knew, that I was in the presence of a Councillor”.

Here the Legate’s voice broke, the single most powerful man on Terra and his voice broke, and he neared the Adjutant, placing his hands on the arms of the chair and drawing his face close to the man from Io’s. “This is what he said Adjutant, listen carefully; ‘Barold of Zurich’s Tower, I bid you greetings from Heart. It pleases us to hear that you have rediscovered Terra and established a firm rule on her ground. It is our common home and we are warmed by the knowledge that humans once again hold sway here. Barold, you will need a law. And for law, you will need a language and these are things you do not have. All you have is a smattering of Galactic and the half remembered codices of ship’s regulations. Barold, I am here to make you a gift. Heart will give you law. Heart will give you language. And with these you shall rule'”. The Legate, Barold the Fleetsman, rose now and faced the storm. The Adjutant’s throat was dry with panting, his every extremity burning with the need to run from/to his leader, his god, his lawmaker. But he held his place, out of respect and out of fear that he will not hear the ending to the story should he disturb the man.

However, unfortunately for him, the Legate was intent to finish: “And so it was Adjutant, I am sorry my dear man, but so it was. None of you remember how you learned this language. None of you remember a time before the Terran law. Don’t you see, you fool?  You can’t delay this man which you have delayed, you can’t inspect this crew which you have submitted to inspection, you can’t impound this ship which you have attempted to impound. They are not only outside your jurisdiction, they are outside your understanding. They are the foundations of language and law and your very life as a human. And now they come to seek justice”.

Before the Adjutant could fully understand what was happening, the door behind him sighed open and three men and one woman, clothed all in black-green robes, came into the room. The spaces inside, not just the space but every empty place between atoms was filled with singing. To say it was echoing would be false because there is no echo in a full place and this place was full of the singing itself. And it came from the woman, from within the woman. The woman was clearly the superior, her brown hair shimmering in the light of the storm as if calling to it. If the legends were to be believed, it probably was. “Adjutant Markushio of Io” she said and the music in her voice finally caused Markushio to collapse, weeping into the rug. “You have acted against Heart. Since this was not done with malice, you will not be killed. However, your mind is needed in the war-matrices in Sector A7402, where the enemies of Heart are even now collecting. Come, rise. I am the Councillor Mirabella and I require you”.

And rise he does. The Legate turns to face the storm. The door sighs open once again and closes once again but not before a string of whispered words wraps itself around the Legate’s throat, ever forthright be his eyes in the darkness of Antartic, and into his ears: “You are a good man, Barold of Zurich’s Tower. The Heart is proud to entrust Terra to you”. He tries to stop crying but he can’t. He is too happy, too filled with joy, his mind too caressed by his master. Outside, the storm rages on.

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