Tuesday, July 18, 2006

The Fedayken

((This is part of a larger story i've had elements of in my head for some time now. This chapter played itself out in its entirety while i was on the metro, on my way home, so as soon as i got in, i sat down and tapped it into MS Word To Your Momma. The larger story tells the tale of The Hegemon and his Court, The Winterborn, Rennaissance Men and Women all, who are at once Diplomats, Bodyguards, Confidants and Elite Special Forces. In The Hegemony, the lowest ranked Winterborn is still called "Honored Sir" by any member of the Military, and "Winterborn" by any civillian. Likewise, The Winterborn address any member of a service by rank, as he would a subordinate, and addresses any civillian as either "Sir," "Madam" or "Citizen." Winterborn, despite their rank, which ranges from Winterborn Acolyte to Hegemon, all address each other either by name, or as "Brother." The overarching plot details how The Hegemony spreads slowly to unite the entire world. Certainly, not all of it is peaceful, but The Winterborn are cunning diplomats and excellent at social subtleties, and often find more inventive ways of showing The Hegemony's power than relying on their impressive combat training, which is spoken of in whispered tones even by The Mossad. This chapter is the exposition of a division of The Hegemony's Special Forces: The Fedayken.))

Winterborn First Class Aberthol stood facing the Japanese General on the sand. His manner did not look like a standard military's attention stance, but this General might know enough about the Winterborn to know that the left foot slightly forward, knees slightly bent, hands barely touching at the waist was their equivalent. Behind him, the Platoon Sergeant oversaw the Second Platoon securing the armored landing craft to ready status. Soon Platoon Sergeant Aella would be at his side, here in front of her arrayed Fedayken Platoon.
Aside from Aberthol, Aella was the eldest here, along with each squadron leader: 14 years of age. The first division, Botticelli angels in black uniforms, was made up of 12 and 13 year olds, and the second squad, of 11 year olds. As they had made their way up the beach from the shore, Aberthol playing the flute accompaniment to the Fedayken marching song, his keen eyes had watched General Kenichi's face run the gamut from confusion and revulsion to horror, as he realized that this was a true military unit.
Tapping the long, hollowed zatoichi that served as the flute against his leg, Aberthol still saw that look in the Japanese's eyes, though his face had turned stoic. As Aella loped over to take her place by her Commander's side, the Winterborn remarked to himself on the strange panoply of names they had assembled here. Winterborn were well known for their suspicions about the power of names, and Aberthol was no exception. Here before him was Kenichi: 'The Strong One,' his Fedaykin Platoon Leader, Aella: 'The Whirlwind,' and lastly Aberthol himself: 'The Sacrifice.' There, arranged regularly in the sand, the Winterborn could almost picture them all as some perverse tarot spread, but what did it portend?
Then there were the other names here; Major General: perhaps that had stood for more once. Or no doubt the Imperial Army had given them more poetic titles, before globalization took over, and made the 'Japanese Ground Defense Force' out of 'His Illustriousness The Emperor's Heavenly Army of Freaking Justice,' or whatever they'd called themselves. Then there were the elegant names, Winterborn: The Hegemon's (Not that Aberthol thought of him as The Hegemon; all Winterborn were brothers, everyone in The Hegemony knew that.) translation of the ancient Vedic 'Kshatria.' And then The Fedayken; the shock-troops whose name The Hegemon had drawn, so apt, from a dusty volume of his childhood.
The Winterborn's train of thought was interrupted by the piping voice of the Platoon Leader, presenting herself. The clear voice held all the softness and youth of her age, but the tone and the precision betrayed her precociousness and training.
"The 24th Fedaykin Platoon is all accounted for, Honored Sir. 2nd Squad has secured the landing craft and has formed ranks." Turning to the General, she added "My sincere apologies, Sir. The 2nd Squad is still in apprenticeship to the first. They do not act as quickly as they ought to yet." The General bristled and finally spoke, looking at Aberthol, not the girl.
"What is hell is this, Winterborn Aberthol? Your communication was that this was to be a formally arranged engagement, with a short parley beforehand as opportunity for withdrawal! Now here you show up with… with children! And not one tenth of what was agreed!" Calmly, his face betraying no emotion, his eyes staring at some point one hundred yards behind Kenchi's face, Aberthol replied,
"General Kenichi, the proper form of a subordinate rank addressing a Winterborn is 'Honored Sir." The General's face flushed a dark hue, and he opened his mouth quickly to speak with sparks dancing in his eyes, but The Winterborn cut him off. "i personally command only ten platoons of Fedaykin, each two squads of eight. i believe your platoons are three squads of ten? That's simply a matter of semantics, i'm afraid. What happened, i fear, is that what you see here is my own personal platoon, assigned to my person as a Winterborn, First Class. When i told them that they were to stand with me against ten infantry divisions, my other nine platoons begged me not to dishonor my own abilities by bringing them. i tried to reason that this sortie was a symbolic one, as My Most Honored Brother had ordered it, there were forms to follow. My nine platoon leaders gave up begging me, and begged Him, saying that Winterborn First Class Aberthol was too loyal to His Brother, and risked debasing himself. They were not the only ones who did. Every Winterborn commanded as i was, is standing right now before a general of some country as i am." By this point, the Nippon General was blanched white, his mouth slightly open despite his military bearing.
"Your Hegemon has greatly insulted us! Does he think us no match for mere children?"
Before even Aberthol's preternaturally swift reflexes could stop her, Aella had bared her teeth and drawn the two small knives from her belt, her eyes ablaze with the fanatic fire that made the Fedayken terrifying in battle. The Winterborn considered ordering her to stand down, but she might claim that Kenichi was trying to sow discord in their ranks; grounds for declaring an attack if worded correctly. Instead, he spoke softly, turning his head to look down at the youth.
"Sergeant, would you fight this man on my behalf, if i asked it?"
"You flatter me, Honored Sir." She looked up, and Kenichi surely saw the hunger in that look, seeking his permission, her young body tensed like a whipcord, prepared to wade into those hundreds of men with nothing but two short knives.
"And if you did, would your brothers and sisters protect you?" The Winterborn heard movement in the Japanese ranks, but he didn't dare break eye contact with this young girl. Fedayken were loyal certainly, unfailingly loyal, to their own deaths, but those with an independent rank like Hers often used their initiative in situations like this. Better to keep her attention.
"Of course they would, Honored Sir! Just as i would protect any of them! These are my brothers and sisters, Honored Sir!" Her face had lost some of that intensity, the seeds of horror and confusion in her features at hearing a Winterborn speak something so close to blasphemy. Aberthol looked back to General Kenichi and gave the man a hard look.
"You see how it is with them then? They would not-"
He was cut off by a flash of light in his peripheral vision and a strangled sound from his right. All heads turned to look, and saw a Japanese Infantryman's rifle lying in the sand, next to a camouflaged hump that had just fallen out of some scrub brush some sixty feet away. The Winterborn turned, and looked at his platoon, scrutinizing for any sign that might show which of them had thrown the knife behind his back. As he searched in vain, he heard low whispers behind him in Japanese.
"Right in the eye…"
"Must have been twenty meters…"
"Hardly even saw him move." Turning his face back to the General for a moment, Aberthol's mind was a tempest. He wasn't sure what exactly to do in this situation. He'd been sent to this spot because he'd been taught Japanese manners and social cues, but nobody had ever taught him the proper Japanese etiquette for when one has been saved by a subordinate from an assassination attempt. Realizing that he could err on the side of caution, and at the same time drive home again the reality of what these men were standing in front of, he smiled internally and called out in a hard, commanding voice.
"Which one of you threw that knife? You were not ordered to break ranks." Not a one of them moved, and The Winterborn swept his steely gaze over them. "This is your last chance to come forward. If no-one confesses or denounces another, you will all be punished with insubordination." Without a second of hesitation, all sixteen right hands shot into the air, just as he'd known they would. Doubtless they knew he knew it, too. Nodding, he barked, "So be it. As you were." The hands dropped, and The Winterborn again turned to Kenichi, who was no longer hiding in the least that he had become terribly uncomfortable. "General Kenichi, no doubt you were not expecting your parley to play out in the that way it has. As was agreed, the option is now opened for either side to withdraw from the field of battle." He inclined his head slightly, and stood to await the General's response, which followed a bow of Kenichi's own, perceptibly lower.
"We graciously accept, Honored Sir. We will resume negotiations effective immediately."
As the two armies dispersed, Platoon Sergeant Aella began to fill Aberthol in,
"i've checked ahead, you won't be able to report in person for at least two days. 45 of the 249 other delegations have already reported the same success, and are in line for their audiences with The Hegemon. 14 others report that the sorties were a success, with a grand total of 7 casualties, two each in Moscow, Palestine and Switzerland, one in the Congo. Other-" She broke off as The Winterborn raised a hand, cocking an ear. Yes there, carried on the breeze, the soft sobbing of a handful of grown men behind them.


Blogger the Razorclown said...

I particularly like the last sentence.

11:41 AM  

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