The Anniversary

Thanks to Corelous Alterrian, Bataav, Saxon Hawke, and Jyotmimana Karana for their written material. The original posts are here.

Placid Region – Viriette Constellation – Intaki Prime
Intaki Cultural Center

Sakaane was partway through her round of the cultural center when she paused to step outside, wandering down a short flight of steps leading into the garden. The afternoon sun was warm and bright; she shielded her eyes to scan the green space and admire the elaborate decorations woven in amongst the myriad ferns and other flora the center’s grounds had to offer. The banner had been strung up and the acolytes were moving on to other tasks.

A gentle breeze ruffled her loose hair and the delicate velvet petals of the blossom pinned in it at her right ear, and brought with it the natural perfume of the thousands of flowers before her. She inhaled deeply, holding in the scent of her homeworld for a while before letting it out.

Beautiful, she thought. But, she also scanned the garden for other things, things which would not be quite so beautiful if they were there. Her hand wandered absently to her hip, reassuring her mind with a touch that her pistol was still holstered there. But all was quiet and peaceful in the garden. As it should be.

Satisfied, she turned back and continued on, working her way systematically through the building. Eventually she came to the Suresha’s office where she found him working, and knocked politely.

“Security arrangements for this evening are in place,” she reported. “Bataav is finishing up some of his own surveillance checks.” She smiled. “I don’t imagine we’ll have any trouble tonight, though.” Then, inclining her head respectfully, she turned to leave the ILF leader to his work, eager instead to join the Karna Pasha. “Until later this evening, Suresha.”

Bataav chatted with the others, exchanging pleasantries with guests and fellow ILF members. Taking a moment as he moved from one group to another he watched the Suresha for a while and smiled at how he engaged each visitor in a manner so that they held his attention completely before he moved on. Guests were left feeling as if they had been the only person in the courtyard with the man as they were introduced and welcomed.

As the Suresha moved to greet the latest arrival Bataav caught the newcomer’s gaze and bowed respectfully before taking an offered drink from one of the students who had volunteered to act as attendants to the guests.

Moving quietly to the edge of the crowd Bataav climbed a discreet stone staircase against the side of one of the center’s ancillary buildings. At the top he stepped onto the small balcony that overlooked the courtyard and took in the view. Behind him through a small arch led a corridor toward some private chambers and sensing someone approaching he smiled in anticipation of what was coming.

“Are you working again? There’s no need to keep a watchful eye here,” said Sakaane from behind him.

He turned and took her hand, drawing her closer. “There’s always a need. I’m looking forward to hearing the Suresha speak later too much and it’d be a shame if something went awry and interrupted the proceedings.”

He looked back down at the others before moving back toward the steps, leading her. “Come on. I see Mammal and the others. We should mingle.”

Sakaane smiled and kept hold of Bataav’s hand as he led her into the crowd.

It was nice to see so many of her fellow pilots in attendance. The sound of conversation and the occasional peal of laughter created a comfortable hum in the courtyard. Although they all kept in regular contact via corporation comms and through the various other channels available to them when in space, there was just something about being face to face that heightened the sense of camaraderie and strengthened their ties to one another, something no pod environment could ever reproduce.

She moved from group to group, staying close to Bataav and returning enthusiastic salutes with her own, and chatting warmly with everyone. Pilots and guests flowed around them and she was reminded of the holoreel convention. No one was a stranger to anyone, even if introductions had just been made.

While the conversations carried on, Sakaane cast curious glances around the gathered crowd for the Suresha, knowing he would be speaking shortly and looking forward to what he had to say.

Moving as quickly as he could, Jyotmimana navigated the bottleneck at the entry gates and then quickly took a side corridor that led through an area used for food preparation by the center’s full-time residents. Taking a quick turn and ducking through a laundry room strung with drying bed linens, he found himself back in a hallway and on his way to side entrance to the courtyard gardens.

Once in the courtyard, it wasn’t hard to spot the Suresha. ILF’s leader was making his way through the crowd, bowing and shaking hands alternately as he received guests. When Saxon looked his way, Jyotmimana bowed his head slightly but maintained eye contact at all times. The Suresha smiled and matched the gesture.

From his vantage point, Jyotmimana could also see Bataav who was standing with an Intaki woman he knew by reputation only. Jyotmimana made his way through the crowd, weaving to avoid having more than cursory interaction with anyone else. When at last he stood near Bataav, he bowed and brought his hands together, forming a triangle with his index fingers and thumbs.

“Greetings, brother Bataav,” he said, turning then to the woman. “And to you also, sister.”

Bataav turned with a smile, subtly positioning himself so his back faced the majority of those gathered and mirroring the triangle with his fingers and thumbs bowed politely.

Namas brother Jyotmimana,” he replied before resting a hand against the small of Sakaane’s back. “Let me introduce you to ILF’s Isha-Sainika, Sakaane.”

Aware that Sakaane would know of Jyotmimana’s reputation from his time with the extremist group Intaki Pure, Bataav introduced him.

“Jyotmimana’s affiliations have changed in time and recently our paths have converged a number of times, allowing us to collaborate.”

Turning to face the crowd he remarked, “It’s a positive sign that such numbers join us here today, and from a number of quarters too. I see we have delegates from the Assembly and I spoke with an officer from Intaki Space Police earlier. I’ve even seen a couple of Mordu’s Legion uniforms. It seems there’s a great deal of anticipation for the Suresha to speak.”

With his hand still on Sakaane’s back Bataav leant closer to Jyotmimana and said quietly, “I’m sure we will have an opportunity to talk privately later too,” before taking a sip of his drink and watching the others.

Upon receiving the introduction, Jyotmimana turned to face Sakaane more squarely.

“So you’re the new Isha?” he asked. “Your dossier photos don’t hardly do you justice.”

Before Sakaane could respond, the grey-haired Intaki bowed slightly and excused himself.

Sakaane blinked at the unexpected compliment, then watched, baffled, as Jyotmimana walked away. The greeting and thanks she’d been about to offer died on her lips. “How odd,” she murmured instead, her brow furrowing.

“What is?” Bataav asked.

She nodded after Jyotmimana and lowered her voice so only Bataav could hear. “He and I have spoken before on a few occasions. And…in October he mailed me congratulations regarding my promotion to Isha. Why then act as if we’re strangers? Just seems…odd.” Slightly disappointed, she tried to follow the elder man’s progress through the crowd but lost sight of him, and shrugged.

Bataav’s arm tightened nicely around her waist as she sidled closer to him. His subtle exchange with Jyotmimana hadn’t gone unnoticed by her either but she changed her mind about asking about it, instead putting it down as one of any number of mysterious ways known only to diplomats and their counterparts.

A sudden hush passed over the crowd, followed by a smattering of cheers and applause. Sakaane shifted to watch Suresha Hawke approach a small podium on a temporary platform.

“Greetings, Intaki patriots,” he began. “I am pleased to once more welcome so many guests to our cultural center. It remains one of my proudest achievements as leader of the Intaki Liberation Front. And that is why so many of you are here, to celebrate the achievements of this fine organization and its many distinguished members.”

Saxon paused, and Sakaane noticed how he scanned the audience, making eye contact with many of them.

“As for my part, as founder and leader of this noble group, I am humbled that so many have made the choice to share in my vision,” he said.

Someone from the crowd shouted, “Hail the Suresha!”

Saxon smiled and shook his head, dismissing the call with a wave. “Please, brother, I need no hailing,” he said. “As many of you know, the title Suresha means ‘respected leader’ in contemporary Intaki. Its origins, however, come from a more ancient word meaning ‘supreme ruler of all rulers’ and that is not my aim. I don’t want to rule or conquer anyone. I should like to help everyone if possible. We all want to help one another, human beings are like that. We all want to live by each other’s happiness, not by each other’s misery. We don’t want to hate and despise one another. In this universe there is room for everyone and its worlds are rich and can provide for everyone.”

Saxon scanned the crowd once more. People nodded in agreement with him, Sakaane among them.

“The way of life can be free and beautiful. But we have lost the way. Greed has poisoned men’s souls, has barricaded our star systems with hate; has sent us warp speed into misery and bloodshed. We can travel at light speeds but we have shut ourselves in. Machinery that gives abundance has left us in want. Our knowledge has made us cynical, our cleverness hard and unkind.”

Watching him carefully, Sakaane thought his hands gripped the edge of the podium more tightly than they might otherwise do, and wondered how much he had to fight to let his true emotion show.

“We think too much and feel too little: More than machinery we need humanity; more than cleverness we need kindness and gentleness. Without these qualities, life will be violent and all will be lost.” He paused again to let his gaze sweep over the crowd.

“The jump gate and the FTL transmissions have brought us closer together. The very nature of these inventions cries out for the goodness in men, cries out for universal brotherhood for the unity of us all,” he said, turning for the first time to the camera recording the event. “Even now my voice is reaching trillions throughout the universe, trillions of despairing men, women, and little children, victims of a system that makes men torture and imprison innocent people. To those who can hear me I say ‘Do not despair.’ The misery that is now upon us is but the passing of greed, the bitterness of men who fear the way of human progress: the hate of men will pass and dictators die and the power they took from the people, will return to the people and so long as men die, liberty will never perish.”

He paused then, seemingly taking a moment to compose himself before continuing.

“There is a mythology that has arisen that says the capsuleer is immortal and has transcended humanity. This is a fallacy as we have seen that capsuleers can and do die. Despite their great power, they are at their core still men and women and part of the vast fabric of humanity,” he said. “And so it is that I implore you, capsuleers: don’t give yourselves to brutes, men who despise you and enslave you, who regiment your lives, tell you what to do, what to think and what to feel, who drill you, diet you, treat you as cattle, as cannon fodder. Don’t give yourselves to these unnatural men, machine men, with machine minds and machine hearts. You are not machines. You are not cattle. You are men. You have the love of humanity in your hearts. You don’t hate, only the unloved hate. Only the unloved and the unnatural. Capsuleers: don’t fight to enslave systems, fight for liberty of mankind.”

Saxon turned his attention once more to the assembled crowd with a soft smile. He raised his arms outstretched as though offering an embrace to the whole assemblage.

“You the people have the power, the power to create machines, the power to create happiness. You the people have the power to make life free and beautiful, to make this life a wonderful adventure. Let us fight for a new world, a decent world that will give men a chance to work, that will give you the future and old age and security,” he said. “By the promise of these things, brutes have risen to power, but they lie. They do not fulfill their promise, they never will. Dictators free themselves but they enslave the people. Now let us fight to fulfill that promise. Let us fight to free the universe, to do away with greed, with hate and intolerance. Let us fight for a world of reason, a world where science and progress will lead to all men’s happiness.”

His speech concluded, Saxon stepped back from the podium with a slight bow to his head. The crowd erupted into thunderous applause. Sakaane joined them, casting a glance at Bataav, trying to gauge his reaction. Like her, he seemed to approve.

As the crowd began to break up into smaller groups, each discussing amongst them what the Suresha had said, a figure stepped from the throng and approached the ILF couple. As he neared, Sakaane recognized Corelous Alterran. He bowed his head slightly in greeting.

“Sakaane, I have a proposal for you. I will be in contact soon with it,” he said.

“I’ll look forward to it, Corelous,” Sakaane replied. Then she moved off into the crowd with Bataav, eager to enjoy the party.