Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Two Pages a Day: Sixty-Four

           “I’m here to make sure no one ever does that to you again,” I said.
            He didn’t say anything. From time to time I heard him crying. I learned as an officer not to press these matters. After a while a woman straggled along, looking confused. I motioned for her to sit beside us. She did, rearranging her long dark hair as she sat down.
            “It’ll be okay,” I said to them. “They left you here because they believe you cannot fight. I want you  because together we can take back your world.”
            She didn’t respond just yet, but then I did not want her to. I wanted my words rattling around inside her brain as the shock passed, as she got back on her feet. I wanted her to associate her strength with mine. An old trick, but the Academy’s used it to build officers for millennia. They used it on you, Elmy. They used it on me. And they meant it every time.
            When the third person came, I shared out my supplies. This is how you build an army, not the fighting machine, but the men and women who make it up. Discipline comes later. These people needed care. They came by ones and twos and threes. Some had met the politician or the poet. Most had just met some other soul wandering toward the Temple. I welcomed them all. I circulated, offering water, a few moment’s silence. Now and then I hugged. When darkness fell, I gently organized those most well—they were generally the longest there—into making a bonfire on the square. I made a brief speech about helping others in the wake of horrors that cannot be lived through alone. Then I returned to the cache to get more food. I had the first young man see to getting bedrolls.
            It went like that for two more days. People started talking. They wondered how their world had fallen. They asked me why the enemy would do all this. Some spoke with the gleam of vengeance in their eyes. I kept the bonfires burning. Each evening, I declared a little feast. Scavenging gave people something to do. Which was good, because the food in the cache was soon exhausted. By the third dusk I guessed we were nearly a thousand strong. I looked at my motley crew. Men and many women, mainly young. Quite a few children, dirty and malnourished. That explained the surprised looks I’d been getting about the food. Apparently, the nightwind isn’t much for basic human needs.  
            But we would deal with that later. Right now, I had to convince these people to leave the comfort of what was probably the only home they’d ever had.
            “You’re not fighters,” I said. “I know that. In fact it’s pretty clear why the enemy left you behind. They wanted you to breed. They wanted more soldiers to throw at more free worlds. But that’s over now. The nightwind is gone. Your hearts are yours again. This is your city again. These are your children, now and forever. I can help it be so that they will never belong to anyone but you. I certainly insist they do not come with us. 
            But I have to ask the rest of you. There are more of the enemy coming. And they don’t mean to set foot on this world. They want to strike it from orbit. They want to wipe your city off the map. And the only way to stop them is if we take back this whole world for ourselves. We need ships to reach the stars. I know where those ships are found!
            You’re tired. I know. You’re scared. I am, too. But I’m not from here. This is not my world. I’m from the Earth. Where we beat the enemy. The Augers tied to take our last free city and they failed! For two years they tried and they still failed! We drove them back! And you have every weapon we did. And you have more! You have the White Swarm! You will walk through the nightwind! And it will not touch you!

            Take your time. Decide tonight what you will do. Then sleep well. Because war mostly is not fighting. War is mostly work. And I will give you work. I will give you more work than you have ever known. But it will be for something. It will be for this city, which heals and only heals. It will be for your children, so that darkness will not come for them again.

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