Saturday, October 6, 2012

The City: In Dialogue (Chapter 1)

Chapter 1

In order to be king, one must be merciful and kind, for fear he be found out a tyrant. Although, for a king to be loved, he must be heavy handed, for people love a strong leader who keeps order as well as prosperity. While doing so, a king must be mindful of God, for He is king among kings and ruler of all who rule. Being king is an arduous task, a feat most men cannot accomplish with any longevity. So it is that a king must respect the devil, for Satan is ruler of all those who fail.

“Ugh! Why do you read this blather to me, Jepsin?” I inquired dryly.

“I read it, Magistrate, because your cousin is gaining much support by doing the same, and you need to be aware of it,” he responded.

“He gains support with the working plebes,” I snapped. “I still command the full loyalty of the army—not to mention the Managers.”

“The Managers are not to be trusted,” he scowled. “Their loyalties would shift in a slight breeze, if it suited their needs. And as far as the army is concerned, they’re not allowed within the wall, and he controls the defense force.”

“What the hell is Thason so mad about,” I shouted, pushing the papers Jepsin slid toward me straight off the other side of my desk. “The motto of the city is right there, etched in the forum. ‘First, always, the wellbeing of the city and its people.’ Does the city do anything but prosper and, by default, the people too?”

“Yes, Magistrate,” he scurried over and crouched to reassemble the scattered papers. “I believe he is upset that some citizens appear to be prospering better than others.”

“Piss on him,” I spat the words, as if they left a bitter taste in my mouth. “He cares nothing for the plight of others. It’s arguable; he lives better than I do. You don’t see him offering to part with any of his estate to help equalize any perceived discrepancies.” I contemplated for a moment, strumming my fingers on the desk. “No, this is about that religious nonsense he’s gotten into his head; he wants a state religion.”

“Your Fathers did come from a religious background,” Jepsin chimed in. “I think, primarily, he’s…”

“No!” I asserted. “Neither one of the Fathers wanted this city to be run by the influence of dogmatic nonsense weakly passing itself off as morality. And even though my ancestors have been dead for generations, I won’t have the likes of you sullying their memory by suggesting otherwise.”

“No, Magistrate, of course not,” he backpedaled. “I’m merely trying to…”

I held a hand up, cutting him off again. “Wait,” I ordered. “Bear with me, Jepsin.” That was the closest I could come to apologizing to him, given the difference in our status. “I know what you were trying to do, and it is appreciated. You are very good at your job, but for now I need no further advice.”

I stood up, grabbing and twirling my jacket off the back of my chair and around my shoulders in one skillfully swift maneuver, and I headed for the door.

“Where are you going?” Jepsin called.

I stopped, turned my head to face him, and cocked an eyebrow.

“I…eh…I…ahem…must…notify your detail,” he recovered, ever so graceful.

“You needn’t bother,” I resumed my stride. “I’m just retrieving the kids from their lessons. Besides, no one would dare harm me.”

The large, ornately carved, doors to my office closed behind me—further punctuating the end of our conversation.

“You think that now,” Jepsin mumbled under his breath.


In a small, but lavishly decorated, room an elderly professorial figure stood pontificating instruction to three seated boys.

“Through specific recruitment and selective allowance, they populated the city to its first-phase capacity. And, for a pre-set period of time, they maintained an isolationist policy, so the city—and her inhabitants—could adjust and grow without negative influences. And so it was, the two brothers, their children, and their children’s children, built our wonderful city of Renace.”

“Mr. Battista,” the oldest of the three boys inquired, “what happened to those other governments the Fathers had to negotiate with?”

“Well Remus,” frustrated with the interruption, the teacher turned to speak directly to his inquisitor, “after a few generations, the city was still isolated within its great wall—further protected by its superior defensive technologies. A growing number of inhabitants were beginning to protest until the world fell victim to a plague. News reports attributed the sickness to a special vaccination for a new flu strain.”

“Are they sure it was the flu?” the boy said wide-eyed.

Though he certainly did not appreciate being repeatedly interrupted, the teacher continued lecturing, “Whatever the cause, the world’s population was devastated. Wherever people had gathered in close number there was no chance for survival; the disease worked very quickly. Towns and cities around the world were abandoned as their streets filled with bodies.”

All three boys’ mouths were open but remained silent.

“Within a few years there seemed to be no more sign of sickness, and—though there is no way to be sure—the population of the world had to be down in the few hundred million range.”

“Is that when we started to expand the republic?” Remus asked.

“No,” the teacher paused briefly at the outburst. “The city was self-sufficient and safe from the sickness, so there was no rush to break the timeline for the second-phase, but soon after that expansion the population grew too quickly. Incorporation of new territory was required. At this point, of course, several generations had come and gone, so none of the previous claims to land outside of ours existed anymore.”

“That’s when the army was created!” one of the younger boys exclaimed.

“Telemachus,” the teacher scolded, “your cousin has developed some bad habits; you’d do well to discourage the same behavior in yourself.”

There was a short silence as the boys turned back and forth to look at each other in awe.

The teacher started up again, “When men of proper decorum want to address a superior or, in this instance, a mentor, they do so by sounding said superior’s name and then waiting for the acknowledging approval to go on.”

There was another brief pause.

“Mr. Battista,” sounded the voice of one, now timid, Telemachus.

“Yes, Telemachus.”

“Is that when the army was created?”

“Yes. And so started the days of the republic.”

“Mr. Battista,” Remus hissed, clearly being upset at the not-so-subtle admonishment.

“Yes, Remus,” the teacher grinned, being pleased with the reestablished order.

“If there were no more cities or governments, and the people scattered into the wilderness, how, then, are there so many kingdoms and nations now that the army constantly has to control or conquer them?”

“Good question,” the teacher encouraged. “As I had said, several generations had gone by, and—though nature had reclaimed almost all of what we refer to as the Old Civilization—people did eventually start to gather into groups again. They, of course, were having children just like we did, and they began building their respective societies.”

“Societies, huh,” Remus sneered.

I had entered the room just as professor Battista was finishing his statement and well in time to hear Remus’ outburst.

“Remus,” I shouted.

The boys all jumped and turned to face me; the teacher sharpened his stance as well.

“Yes father,” he snapped cautiously.

“Though I deal with barbarians on a regular basis, I have no patience for it in my own home,” I stepped further into the room. “When your professor is speaking, you do not interject at will.”

As I casually strolled around the back of the room, not looking at its occupants but scanning it as if taking some sort of inventory, I continued, “Just because other nations are primitive does not mean we must lower ourselves to their level when learning about them.”

“Executive Magistrate,” the teacher appealed.

I held a ceasing hand up, “Upon entering, I did not notice my cousin’s sons behaving like animals.” I dropped my hand, “Tell me professor, is this my son’s natural state?”

“Of course not, Magistrate,” the teacher said confidently. “He was merely taken over with zeal. He gets that way—on occasion, as young boys do—when learning the history of our great city.”

Professor Battista, then, leveled an almost blatantly accusatory stare at me and continued, “Many of the boys under my tutelage over the years have had the very same issues to overcome. It always seems to pass with a little gentle encouragement.”

“Ah, of course, it does.” I replied, knowing full well what he was insinuating. “Well, that’s settled then.”

I crouched down and extended my arms. “Come here boys,” I called to my eight and ten year old nephews in an exaggeratedly excited tone. “We’ve got to get you back to your father. Remus, thank your professor for his instruction,” I nodded to my old teacher.

The two boys ran to my embrace, and Remus turned to face his teacher.

“Thank you, professor Battista,” Remus said in a sincerely humble voice.

“You are quite welcome, young sir,” Battista winked at Remus.

The boy smiled, turned, and quickly joined our little mock marching group, and we headed off down the hallway.

(End of Chapter 1)

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