Story comes to Project AEGIS

In the process of developing the Universe of Project AEGIS, it became necessary to write an in-universe character piece. As such, I chose to write the story of the first Unit Activation in the universe; the moment AEGIS units were first brought to life. The piece observes the political culture of the Empire and displays the propaganda that keeps their soldiers fighting.

The piece was written within 2 hours on Thursday, February 28th, 2013. The brainstorming process was a passive activity during the week prior.

The Knights

By Tom Bouwman-Wozencraft

A shot. I take cover behind a ruined concrete wall. Several more shots ring out and the edge of the wall chips as bullets strike it. Counting the shots, I wait. He’s out of ammo. I turn and open up on the inexperienced young man standing out in the open. He drops without a sound as my first bullet hits his heart, my second his head. An unfortunate waste of life, but only those who are willing to follow the Emperor deserve his divine gift of life.

                My name is Diane Kiir. I’m a squad leader in his Emperor’s Holy army, part of the great Empire. And this is the world I know. Not one of peace and tranquility. One of war.

                My life is akin to all in my country. I grew up on a farm in the Bek-tan province, with my mother and my younger brothers, Aiden and Chris. My older sister Sasha served in the Imperial Army, and my father died seven months after Chris was born.  Family was everything to me, until I was taken at age 16 to be inducted into the Imperial Church. It was then that I learned just how powerful the Emperor was, and how much I should respect his grace in allowing us to live.

                I approach the spot where the young “protectorate” soldier had been slain, double-checking my work. My first bullet landed two inches below the heart. Sloppy. He could still fight on with a punctured lung. My second shot had gone straight through his left eye. Also not what I expected of myself. While effective, it was still off-center. I needed my shots to land perfectly on. I had earned my position as squad leader through my ability to pinpoint a shooter’s finger from three miles away, and in doing so, save the life of my superior officer, my sister.

                I don’t remember much of her before she left for the Imperial Academy, but I do remember she was a much different person back then. Warm, kindhearted, and humorous. The day she left for the academy, she was so excited. She was going to be an officer in the Emperor’s holy army! There is no higher honor. The next time I saw her was the day I was deployed in the 28th Infantry, under Commandant Sasha Kiir. My older sister had turned from the loving person I had known as a child to a cold, calculating, and merciless commander. Not once have I seen anything of what my sister once was. She is now a strong leader in the Emperor’s Infantry, a credit to her uniform and unit.

                I look down at the young man’s limp body, and my heart skips a beat as I realize just how young he is. Fourteen, possibly fifteen. Not wearing any Protectorate insignia, so probably simply scared and trying to defend himself from what he was most likely told were  the ruthless murderers of the Empire. I hate being called a murderer. I only kill to eliminate those who have proven themselves unworthy to live under our great Emperor. I do as he commands. And yet…

                Three months before I was inducted, I met a boy. Carlos Asaan. Carlos was amusing and attractive, kind to most everyone, but he had an odd quirk. He constantly spoke ill of the Emperor. At the time, I had found it amusing, and almost interesting. I wanted to know more about how we could be so much more. And then I left for my induction. I discovered he had been trying to pull me away from my destiny of serving our great Emperor. I turned him in to the authorities and never saw him again. There are times I wonder if I reacted too harshly, but I acted in the name of the emperor, didn’t I?

                Lost in thought, I almost fall prey to another armed opponent. I duck behind cover and prime my rifle as my squad opens up to cover me. I hear a startled yelp and cursing; my assailant seems to have not known that I am not alone. I pop my head and rifle up above a crater edge to assess the situation, and notice a small flower out of the corner of my eye. A miraculous singular flower, amongst the artillery craters, of the same variety as the pressed flower within my uniform pocket.

                Mother gave me the flower when I left for boot camp. They grew all across the fields of home, so much so that they were considered weeds by the farming families. I thought they were beautiful in their simplicity, and often begged mother to leave small patches for me to pick. “You’ll become a little weed just like them”, she would tease, but leave several patches for my anyway. As I grew older, I began sketching the fields, both the crops and the flowers. It helped me pass time during the lazy summer months. Then the Holy Knight fell from the sky. A great machine of ancient power, the Emperor’s greatest weapon, which he would only activate in the direst of circumstances. The impact destroyed much of the fields and within weeks the flowers had all disappeared. I was devastated. We were told that we had been granted a great honor by the emperor, but I didn’t feel very honored. When I left for boot camp three weeks later, mother gave me a pressed flower, which she had kept since my childhood years. It took all my strength to keep from crying. After my deployment, during any free time I had, I would slip off away from camp and began drawing landscapes in my sketchbook. Since all the land around me looked like it had been hammered just as my own home had, I tried to imagine what the landscape looked like before the war came here, and drew that instead.

                Tearing myself away from the flower, I look up to see a terrified, lanky figure climb, panicked, inside the workings of a Holy Knight. Naturally outraged, I call the charge, and my squad follows. We get about halfway to the Knight when the unthinkable happens.

                With a great noise that sounds as if the planet would be rent in two, the Knight begins to move. I hear screams of unadulterated terror emit from inside, only just barely above the horrendous racket caused by the giant machine pulling itself out of the ground. Somehow, his screams seem as if they are emitting from the Knight, and not from within it. Lights come on along the Knight’s body, illuminating it’s holiness. We cheer in the Emperor’s name, for we know this means we have his hand in guidance.

                Or we think we do. Until suddenly the automatic weapon on it’s right arm begins to fire at us. The Knight talks as if it were the Protectorate soldier. “What the..? Did I do that?” We all wonder the same as it swings it’s weapon to fire at us again, taking out one of my squad members as he tries to dive from one piece of cover to the next. Then it steps towards us, raiding it’s left hand, which looks like it may have once carried the same weapon as the right before it was damaged, and brings it down almost right on top of me. I dive to the side, and look over in time to see two more of my squad be crushed. Has the Emperor forsaken us?

                As if the situation didn’t look bad enough already, I suddenly feel the ground beneath me lurch. I realize that there are only a few thin layers of soil between me and another Knight rising up out of the ground. Is this one coming to my rescue? I don’t have time to wonder, as a sudden upheaval sends me flying into the air.

                I land painfully on my back, with fire burning in my arm. Broken, most likely. Less than five seconds later, I hear a sickening crunch. I don’t need to look to know my last squad member landed on his head and snapped his neck on impact. I don’t want to look. I do anyway. The Emperor’s Knights are finally rising, but against his forces instead of with them. Are they truly His knights?

                I grab for my weapon and try to decide where to level it to do the most damage, but my hands are shaking. What if the rest of what I was told was not true? What if the Emperor is not divine? What do I do with my life? How much destruction have I wrought? What have I done…

                I look around and see four of the Emperor’s Knights surrounding me. A fifth is struggling to escape from a large boulder that has pinned it down. They all stare at me. None of them fire, but stare. In that stare, I can see the terrified face of the young man who climbed into the first one. A young man who is only acting out of self-defense. Who does not want to die any more than I do.

                I lower my weapon and stand up, gasping as a cracked rib spreads fire throughout my chest. My left arm falls limp at my side. Staring up at the young man’s Knight, I throw my rifle to the ground, and tear the imperial symbol from my uniform, letting it fall as well. Carefully taking out my flower, I put it gently in a belt loop, and begin to limp my way towards the territory of the Armed Protectorate. Maybe there, someone will have the grace to care for me. The Knights watch me go until they recede out of my sight.

                As I walk, I think of my family. My older sister. My brothers. I think of Carlos. All victims of a lie. A lie I hope I can someday save them all from.

                For now, I walk towards a better future. A future for peace, and a future for truth.

 

More info on the universe will be coming soon! Also, info on our plans for PAX East!

-Tom Bouwman-Wozencraft

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