“I have no disrespect towards Shakor, and you’re a fool if you think you can manipulate me on that path.” I said, remaining seated, my elbows propped on my thighs, staring at the bottom of my cell. This entire block smelled of urine, feces and blood, but my senses had already adjusted to accepting that as normal. It was the body and mind’s way of adapting for survival.
“That wasn’t my intentional at all, Wieler. I merely wanted to point out some simple and recent historical facts about the man we all call Sanmatar. The Republic is built on tribel democracy, on the strengths of our differences, by the unity of our core beliefs and culture. Every Matari has a voice within their tribe. Every tribal leader has a voice within the council of parliament.”
“Yes, yes, I know these things. I am not a child. Do not speak to me as such.” I said with muted hostility.
“My apologies; my intention was not to offend. It is just that when I heard of your current situation, and found you here, in this place,” he gestured with open arms at the cell, his robes of office flowing freely around him, “I didn’t know exactly what to think. I mean, it is a known fact you have been a hero in this war. It is known you are loved by the people, despite Shakor’s attempts to discredit your name. Ah, I see that has gotten your attention.”
Shakor and I were colleagues, friends, sharing very similar ideas for the future of the Republic. Both of us were military men, and had a straightforward, above board approach to how things should be run. He had my respect, and I thought I had his.
“It is also known that you would do anything to discredit the Sanmatar’s good name, Orvas Seriador.” I said in return. He withered slightly under the attack, but quickly regained his composure. Someone not as finely attuned to reading body language might not have noticed any reaction at all.
“I am sorry to have wasted your time, Matar Colonel; oh, my apologies, you no longer bear that rank or honour. Forgive my ill manners.”
He smiled with genuine inflection, but I knew it was just another manoeuver in his game. I would play along until I knew what his real agenda was.
As I was opening my mouth for a witty rebuttal, he continued on, cutting me short.
“Just think about the facts of Shakor’s rise to power. There were no opposing candidates during his election. There was no traditional policies upheld at all. And since he’s taken rule of the Republic, he’s pretty much dissolved parliament and has made military action his highest priority, sacrificing hundreds of thousands of lives to date in an unnecessary war we cannot hope to win. It’s madness.”
Madness. Interesting choice of words from the leader of the Sebeistor Tribe considering where our clandestine talks of usurping power were taking place.
“It’s a crazy universe.” I grumbled.
“Indeed it is.” Seriador agreed, thinking I was acknowledging his points about Shakor.
“What is you want, Seriador?” I said bluntly, ignoring his honorific, my own shot back at him for being petty with titles. Respect was measured by the actions of a man, not by the shiny medals on his uniform, or the fancy robes he wore.
“I simply have a need for real answers, Wieler.” he replied with measured timing. “This is a dangerous precipice for our people. With the Thukkers returning to the fold, we are a united people, but at what cost to maintain? Already there have been failures, the Salvation Crusade debacle being one of recent note, as well as your incarceration here.”
“Did you ever think things might be worse if we had a lesser man at the helm?” I asked with sincerity.
“Perhaps. But perhaps you do not know our ‘captain’ as well as you believe, to continue your analogy. Where is he now? Has he been to visit you, his dear friend and loyal servant of the Republic? Did he speak for you at your defence?”
He let his questions hang in the air and I had no immediate answer. My thoughts raced, suddenly following new paths of reasoning, new paranoid delusions of political backdealings and deceptions.
Damn you Shakor. Why hadn’t you been there for me? I hated even questioning his integrity, but Seriador had hit a nerve.
“As you said, it’s as though the universe has gone insane. What better place to find the next Sanmatar than here?”
Seriador smiled once again, with the hypnotic gaze of a viper luring its prey closer until the predator was ready to strike.
“And why not you? Why don’t you run for the position? You’ve never been one to give away power.” I said, knowing some of the political history of Orvas Seriador.
Seriador held his hands up in surrender, waving away my comment. ” I know I am not the man our people need in the immediate years to come. I am here to advise, of course, but I am aware of enough to concede I simply do not bear the strengths needed to out Shakor for the tyrant he is, at least not now. No, better to have the right man for the right job, and in my heart, I know that is you, Sanmatar Wieler.”
I scowled at him for using that title. It was all illusion. Look at my left hand while my right hand slaps you. I had learned my lessons in politics well from Shakor. Is this why he kept encouraging me to get involved? Was it to protect me from despicable men like Seriador?
Or was Shakor protecting his own interests? Did he see me as a threat early on, and thought to keep me under his thumb?
There were too many unanswered questions.
“Just say the word, Wieler, and I can have you out of here, with a snap of my fingers.” He held up his hand, ready to snap his fingers to illustrate his point.
I have to admit, it was very tempting. I needed to be out of that hellish place. There were Amarr that needed to die. Despite what Seriador believed, victory in the war was not impossible. The Amarr Empire could be toppled. Yet I wasn’t ready to owe Seriador for my freedom; the price was too high. He would expect me to do his bidding, being the real power behind the Sanmatar title, and that was something I would never let happen.
I had too much to think about.
“You’ve give me a lot to think about, Seriador. I need to work through it, in solitude. Can’t think of a better place to do that then here.” I lied. I hated this place. I hated what it was doing to me. I thought it was starting to break me. Is realizing you were slowly being broken part of not being broken? Or is it the opposite? Were you already broken if you started thinking about yourself in the third person, narrating your own life as it unfolded around you? Either way, I was slowly starting to lose my grasp on reality.
I had heard rumours of sane people succumbing to insanity simply by being in environments like this. It happened in war, why shouldn’t it happen there?
“As you wish, Wieler.” Seriador said, bowing slightly, as he backed out of my cell. “Just know I will come back to visit you often, and we will not speak of politics, but rather perhaps I can simply be here to listen to a friend in need, if you will consider me such.”
“Yeah, whatever.” I replied.
“Very good.” Seriador said, ignoring my blatant sarcasm. “And as your friend, let me ask, is there anything you’d like me to bring on my next visit?”
A frigate to blow the hell out of this place? A platoon of marines? Nah, too subtle.
“I’d really like a nice…” Did I want to owe this man for anything? Did I want to play this game?
“Yes” he asked, his eyebrow arching.
“I’d really like a nice cigar.” I said.
He laughed, throwing his head back as he did so.
“Very good. I shall bring you some wrapped from leaves nestled in the jungles of the southern continent. We can enjoy the experience together.”
He laughed again, unprompted as far as I could tell.
“What?” I asked.
He leaned close to me, whispering in my ear.
“Isn’t it a little crazy when you think about it? Here we are, in this place, the famed Roc Wieler and myself, Orvas Seriador, secretly plotting to overthrow the government and usher in a new era of prosperity for the people of the Republic from the depths of an insane asylum? Perhaps we should both be kept here for the good of all.”
He stood up, laughing again, and suddenly I realized I hated this man.
“Crazy is as crazy does.” I replied. “And you’re free to stay. I could use the company.” I leaned back in a welcoming gesture.
Again he waved me away with his hands. The man had very easy tells.
“No, no, I speak in jest, and it was insensitive of me I clearly see. My apologies, my new friend. I shall come back as soon as my duties allow, and we will enjoy a fine cigar together. Fly safe, Colonel Wieler.”
“May the gods guide you.” I said, speaking the traditional reply.
Politics was draining. I needed a nap.