15 September 2014
Instruction Area, Citadel Hub
“My parents had three children before me. Sometimes… I wonder what would have happened if they had lived, if I had known them. You take so much for granted today, but that was common in my youth.”
Kelly listened, horrified but unable to turn away.
“I was born in Austria. My parents moved to Germany when I was very young, though I never understood why. My father quit his job. He had worked for the Austrian government, in the customs department, I think. He bought a farm and retired there… spent most of his day raising bees. As I grew older, that decision only came to seem more ridiculous. I rebelled, fought with my father, my teachers, everyone who tried to impose order on me. Of course, I did not think in those terms. I just wanted the adults to stop telling me what to do.”
Kelly tried to calm down. The man’s life story was dull, even ordinary…
“My younger brother died when I was eleven. Measles, yet another thing you no longer have to fear. It was terrible. After Edmund died… something seemed to go out of the world. School, church, my parents and my friends, none of them mattered to me.”
His voice was almost melodic. There was something about the rise and fall of his words; Kelly couldn’t ignore it.
“It was art that brought me out of that darkness. The love of beauty. My father wanted me to follow in his footsteps, a career in government. Our earlier arguments seemed mild in comparison. I suppose it no longer matters, but I thought it terribly important at the time. I ignored my studies, failed at the technical school my father had forced me into.”
He could almost sympathize with that. Kelly’s parents had always been supportive but he knew what it was like to be pushed into a role you weren’t comfortable with.
“After my father’s death, I moved back to Austria. I supported myself with menial labor and practiced my new craft. I still remember how happy I was the first time I sold a painting on the street. I applied to the Academy of Fine Arts and…well, I was disappointed by their decision.”
The speaker paused, lost in warm memories. He gave a tired sigh before continuing.
“Although the director did suggest that I might be more suited to architecture. I might have acted on that immediately but I did not have the academic background. That same rebellion from my earlier days, you see.”
He shook his head, slowly.
“My mother died that year and I was adrift. I joined the military just in time for the Great War. I believe you call it the First War? A good name. It was the first war fought with superpowers, a terrible thing.”
Kelly watched as the Tyrant took a deep breath before continuing.
“To this day, I can’t say that I honestly understood why the war was fought. A man was assassinated. Governments blamed each other… and then the madness started. Trenches, artillery, gas and men with the power of gods. No one had ever seen anything like it before.”
He sat a little straighter, more focused, and Kelly was held still by his gaze. It didn’t even matter that he knew the man couldn’t see him.
“For myself, the early part of the war was not so bad. I was a battalion runner, a messenger, and mostly behind our lines. Cannons and trenches, they were new in scale but not in kind. It formed a sort of stalemate, with soldiers hiding in their holes and the great guns overseeing the battlefields. That lasted until the first super men appeared.”
His gaze grew haunted.
“Men who had no need to fear gunfire, flew through the sky and tore planes from the heavens. Some could cast forth destruction greater than any artillery piece. It changed everything. The stalemate shattered. No one knew how to deal with them and no one wanted to give up. Armies would advance one day only to be destroyed the next. Soldiers who walked like ghosts appeared in a headquarters and murdered the commanders.”
Kelly had been taught about the First War in school. It had never made any sense to him either.
“The French were the first to develop a training program. Their supermen began working together and nothing could stand against them. They threw our forces back and forced an abominable treaty upon us.”
His voice rose, a little, but there was no real passion in it.
“Like many of my countrymen, I was bewildered. We had such faith in our unity, our sense of purpose. I know that some of my fellows thought we had been somehow betrayed. They blamed everyone, the Jews and the Gypsies, the homosexuals or the atheists. Fools.
I was decorated in the war and my commanders did not wish me to leave. They offered me a post in military intelligence. I refused. I was tired of fighting. I went back to school, though I knew it would be difficult. Sometimes… sometimes I wonder if things would have gone better. Should I have stayed in the army?”
Kelly didn’t wonder. Anything would have been better.
“Throughout my studies, I could not help but look around me. I saw the chaos. All over the continent, the supers were throwing society into ruin. I grew obsessed. Our unity was breaking down. All I could think of was my father and his bees. They always knew their place, their purpose.”
He leaned forward, shoulders going limp.
“That’s what I wanted for my people. That is what I dreamt of, night after night. One day, I woke up and it was a reality. Europe, everyone in it, they were bees in a hive and I was the queen. Never have I been so horrified. They were- are, just mindless drones. They seek to please me but have no understanding, no memory of what it meant to be men.”
Blond hair, blue eyes and a square jaw, the man was the very picture of youthful male beauty. There was nothing but sorrow on his face.
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