Empire’s End Part 3 – Et Tu Brute

Empire’s End Part 3 – Et Tu Brute

He moved freely throughout the imperial court.  Guards paid him no attention.  Why would they?  He was the High Exarch.  Supreme commander of all imperial forces.  Ordained by the god emperor to oversee the governance of the entire empire.  The god emperor was too important to tax himself with the minutia of the day-to-day rule of trillions of people.  The emperor simply said what he wanted done, and the High Exarch would ensure that it happened.


To most people in the empire, he was the High Exarch.  In his own heart, he was just Ormond Halcyon.  He was unusual by imperial societal standards.  He was humble to a fault.  He never took credit for what he did for the empire.  The emperor had taken note of this quality when he was young and deemed him worthy of blessing, but first he would have to be tested.

He thought back on that time with equal parts nostalgia and pain.  Each memory crisp in his mind due to the nanobot enhancements to his cognitive functions.

The emperor set him to several tasks that most said were impossible.  Each time he would come back victorious.  The people under his command seemed to love him.  That was unusual.  The harsh doctrines of imperial command rarely ingratiated the subordinates to their commander, but this man seemed to be genuinely loved by those under his charge.

The emperor thought that he might be deliberately manipulating his people to love him so that he could depose the emperor and take the throne.  So, the emperor set about to give the honors due to him to other, less deserving people.  Sometimes even people openly opposing him.  Still, Ormond remained dutiful and loyal to the emperor, performing every task that was asked of him.

Finally, the emperor asked him outright, in front of the entire royal court if he had designs on the imperial throne.  He answered by pulling a knife from his gauntlet.  Before the imperial guard could respond, Ormond spoke.  “I would rather die than to have my emperor believe that I would do such a thing.”

He then took the blade and slit his own throat right there in the throne room.  As he lay there bleeding out on the floor, the emperor realized that he had found a worthy servant to administer his empire.  He took his very own cup and dipped it into the divine waters of life.  He took it to Ormond laying on the floor near death.  The god emperor knelt and cradled his head in his lap.  Slowly, he poured the water into the mouth of the man who had sacrificed himself just to give him peace of mind.

Ormond’s eyes shot open, and he took in a sharp gasp of air.  He was alive.  How could this be?  He looked up to see the emperor holding his head and smiling at him.  He quickly rolled onto his stomach and prostrated himself before his god emperor. 

“I am not worthy, oh holy one, to me graced by the gift of your touch.”

Ormond lay there for what seemed an eternity before he felt the emperor take each of his hands into his own and guide him to his feet.  He dares not resist him.

“My beloved child,” the emperor began as he smiled.  “You have proven to be one of the most effective and beloved of all my commanders.  Now, you have proven yourself to be the most loyal subject in the whole of the empire.”

Ormond bowed at the waist so low that his head was lower than his belt.  “Thank you for such kind praise holy one.  My name is unworthy to be on your lips.”

The emperor regarded this man intently.  “Nonsense.  You are the greatest citizen the empire has ever seen.  If your name is not good enough for me to speak, then whose could ever be?”

The emperor put his hands on each of Ormond’s shoulders.  “I name you High Exarch of the empire.  Your voice will be second to my own.  In my absence, your words will be regarded as my own.  You speak with the divine breath of the god emperor.  You will ensure that my wishes are done throughout the empire.”

That had been more than seven hundred and fifty years ago, and he hadn’t aged a day.  Actually, his appearance was slightly younger than his actual age at the time he took the waters of life.  The nanobots determine each individual’s prime physical condition and keep them at that point forever. He was thirty-six years old when he took that blade to his throat.  Afterwards, his appearance was that of his former, twenty-four-year-old self.  He still looked twenty-four more than three quarters of a millennia later.

He was headed to the hangar for his imperial shuttle to take him to his battleship.  He had just received word of something that was impossible.  He was headed to the edge of the system to meet an incoming fleet of ships.  A fleet that should not be here … was impossible to be here.  He was going to welcome an old friend and, most likely, kill him.

Ormond sat in the command center of his battleship.  This command center was different.  It was designed for strategic operations for a flag officer or higher.  There was a second operations center further forward where the ship’s captain and staff managed the command of the ship itself.  Ormond’s focus was on broader things. 

He had received a message on earth from an old friend, and he had come to see what it was this old friend had to say.  The fact that he was here in the home system of the Terran Empire was proof enough of his treason.  You couldn’t call it anything else.  The emperor had given him an order.  His presence here meant that the order had not been carried out.  It was treason plain and simple.

Before him lay ships from the divine crusade of High Lord Reginald Beauregard of the holy order.  The high lord had been charged with purifying a newly discovered system and colonizing it in the name of the god emperor.  It was an extremely high honor that was guaranteed to win him the emperor’s blessing.  He was back in about half the time it would have taken him to go there and back, much less purify the system.

What was more perplexing to Ormond than the fact that nearly two thirds of the high lord’s warships were missing, were the myriad of other strange ships that he didn’t recognize.  They all had a slightly familiar ring to them, but they also looked … alien.  Ormond shook his head at the sight of them and wondered what Reginald had gotten himself into this time.

He looked over at the comms dais.  “Put me through to the high lord’s flagship.”

“Yessir,” came the calm but immediate reply.

The visage of his long-time friend flickered into frame on the screen.  He seemed older, despite the implants that slowed the aging process.

“High Lord.  I have questions.  Many questions.  I hope that you have good answers.”  Ormond looked quizzically at his old friend.

“High Exarch, you are correct that there are many things to discuss.  I would rather have this conversation face to face.  There really is too much to convey over comms.  Would you like to come aboard Caliban’s Fury? We can discuss everything over a meal.  Perhaps your favorite, sausage and sour kraut?”

That peaked Ormond’s attention.  Reginald was well aware that simply the smell of sour kraut made him physically sick to his stomach.  He could not hate another food more.  He was speaking in code, telling him that he needed to discuss something that he didn’t want anyone else to hear.

“Very well, high lord.  I will depart within the hour and board your ship.  Please dispense with all pomp as our affairs are too important to trifle with such idiosyncrasies.”

“Yes, High Exarch.  I look forward to receiving you.”

With that, Ormond stood and headed for the hatch.  This was going to be one mother of a conversation.  Reginald was not the sort for this cloak and dagger stuff.  He was a straightforward man who dove straight at the heart of matters.  For him to be this circumspect brought Ormond genuine fear of what his friend wanted to discuss.

They did not dine in the large reception hall normally reserved for receiving high level officials such as the High Exarch.  Instead, they were seated on couches opposite each other in the High Exarch’s personal cabin.  Cabin was stretching the term a little.  His cabin was a series of chambers that equated to a large house on Earth.  This chamber was the equivalent of a sitting parlor in one of the royal cousin’s terrestrial homes.

The steward had just left an assortment of foods on the small table between them as well as a selection of the best wines that they empire had to offer.  Reginald dismissed the steward with instructions to remain outside his door and ensure that they were not interrupted.

As the door shut and the click indicated that the lock had secured the room both from entry and eavesdropping, Ormond looked and Reginald.  “What the hell is going on Reg?  How are you here?  Why are you here in half the time it was supposed to take you to get back?  Did you turn around halfway there and come back?  What happened to all your ships, and where did you get all these other ships?  I have so many questions.  Help me understand.”

Reginal sat back after swallowing a piece of fruit.  “I made it there, sir.  I made it there.”

“There is no way you made it there and back.” Ormond exclaimed.  “It takes four hundred and seventy years to get there and the same to get back.  I saw you leave this very system four hundred and seventy-six years ago.”

“And you don’t look a day over three hundred, sir,” Reginald chuckled.

“This is serious, Reg.  By going against the direct orders of the emperor, you have committed treason.  You and your entire crew will be put to death.  Do you not understand that?”

Reginald’s expression turned somber.  “I know what it means, but I have a very good reason for being back here and an explanation as to how I am back here so fast.  The bottom line is … the emperor was wrong.”

Ormond nearly fainted at hearing his old friend utter such blasphemy.

Reginald continued, “The emperor told us that the planet in the system in question was infested with unholy demons.  They were primitives that would be washed away easily by our divine crusade.  He said that they would be savages, incapable of reason.  That they would be evil, incapable of civilized behavior and needed to be wiped from existence.  He was wrong.”

Reginald proceeded to recount the battle of Ontaria.  It took nearly an hour to get all of it out in the open.  When he was done, Ormond sat there in stunned silence. 

“I can’t believe that” Ormond said quietly.

Reginald looked sympathetically at him.  This is the man that killed himself to serve the emperor.  He would not believe any of this unless he saw it with his own eyes.

“Sir, I know that had it been anyone other than me, you would have come with a battle fleet and simply destroyed the entire crusade fleet.  I know you need more than my story.”

He sat a data pad on the table in front of Ormond.  “This contains all the logs, sensor readings, and recordings from every ship during the battle.  I will be in the command center when you are finished.  If you still want to arrest me, I will take full responsibility.  My crew and fleet were just following my orders.  However, if you come to a different conclusion, I have someone I want you to meet.”

Reginald left the room, and Ormond picked up the data pad.  He was almost afraid to look at it.  He was afraid that it would back up Reginald’s tale.  He was afraid that it may not.  On one hand, the god emperor was a fraud.  On the other hand, his best friend was a traitor.  Either way, he was going to lose someone he loved dearly.  He looked at the data pad in his hand and activated it.

It had been nearly seven hours since Reginald left his cabin when Ormond strolled onto the command deck.  The entire command staff stood to attention.

“At ease,” Reginald commanded.  Everyone returned to their stations and resumed their duties.

“Are you alright, my friend,” Reginald said as he placed one hand on Ormond’s shoulder.

“You were right.  The emperor is false.  Gods are never wrong, but the emperor was wrong about everything.”  Ormond sat at an auxiliary terminal, as he felt a little lightheaded. 

“What I am about to say will seem incomprehensible to you at first, but I want you to take a moment and think on it.”  Reginald paused for a moment.  “The entire crew of every ship in the fleet has pledged to bring about the downfall of the false god emperor.  He has claimed to be a god and clearly is not.  Everything he has done has been in his own selfish, HUMAN interests.”

Reginald went on, “Our society has stagnated itself trying to serve a false god who keeps us living in fear of his wrath so that the entire human race will serve him.  There is a word for that.  Evil.  He is the demon that has infested our world.  He is the one that needs to be cleansed from existence.  We will take this fleet to earth and blot out the false god from the halls of power and convert this empire into a just and prosperous society.  Just and prosperous for all.”

Ormond looked up at his old friend and saw a fire in his eyes.  He knew that his friend would not be dissuaded, and he didn’t want to try.  The truth was, he was right, about everything.  The emperor was the most evil person the galaxy had ever seen.  How could no one have seen it before?  He nodded at his friend.

Reginald smiled at him.  “Now that I know you are with us, I have someone I want you to meet.”  He motioned for the officer by the door.  “Bring him in.”  As the guest walked into the room and stood before them, Reginald continued, “I would like to introduce you to Grand Admiral Folok’chon, supreme commander of the Ontarian Defense Force.”

They all looked down as Ormond lay unconscious on the deck.  The Ontarian Admiral spoke first.  “I think that went rather well.”

Reginald grinned and ordered a couple of officers to carry Ormond to his cabin and put him in the guest room.

When Ormond came to, Reginald and Folok’chon were waiting in the sitting room.  He joined them, sitting carefully opposite the alien admiral.  This made Reginald chuckle a bit.  “I had the same feeling the first few times I saw him in person.  Does it make you uncomfortable to know that we look just as strange to him as he does to us?”

Ormond blinked in disbelief.  “I think there is more to the story than you have told me.  Starting with what all these alien ships are doing here and how you got back to our space so fast.”

Folok’chon started.  “As for my ships and why they are here, simple self-preservation.  Your emperor ordered the eradication of my entire species.  He is a clear threat to my world.  If the High Lord is going to fight against him, then we will help.  What we won’t do is commit genocide.  This crime is the fault of the emperor, not the people of the empire.  We will help remove the emperor from power and support you putting in a better form of governance.  We also hope that, once this new, better government is installed, we can become allies with whatever you call yourselves after the empire is gone.”

Ormond thought about it for a moment.  “A noble sentiment.  How can I trust your motives?”

Folok’chon thought for a moment.  “The High Lord is still breathing.”

They couldn’t help themselves.  All three high ranking officers burst out laughing. This caused the guards outside to come running in, as the Ontarian laugh sounded a lot like weapons fire from a hand-held disruptor.  When security burst through the door and saw Folok’chon laughing hysterically, they joined in the laughter which had only grown with their unexpected appearance in the room.

After the guards removed themselves, the three settled down.  “You make a good point, Admiral,” Ormond said as his shoulders finally stopped heaving.

He turned to Reginald.  “How about the speed of your return?  How did you manage to complete a nearly five century trip in just a few years?”

Reginald smiled.  “That is another thing that the emperor was wrong about.  The emperor and his advisors have always claimed that traveling faster than light was impossible.  While the Ontarians were helping us to repair our heavily damaged ships, they got a good look at our technology.  In the years that they observed our approach, they were only able to glean small amounts of data regarding our technology.  Once they were up close to our ships, they noticed some things.  Assumptions they had made that were incorrect yet proved to be crucial to a great discovery.”

He took a drink from his wine glass.  “A team of both human and Ontarian technicians took a few things that they had assumed from their observations along with mathematical theorems that we had proven a millennium ago and cracked the mystery of FTL travel.  It was truly a combined effort.  Separately, it would have taken us another millennium to do it and them another few millennia.”

“It took a few years to repair all our ships and outfit ships of both fleets with FTL technology.  Once we broke the FTL barrier, it was only a matter of how much power you can pump into the FTL drives that determine how much faster than light you can travel.  We would have been here sooner, but the smaller ships have less powerful reactors and can’t put as much power into the FTL.  Our dreadnoughts, such as the Caliban’s Fury, can do more than ten times the speed the corvettes can due to the larger reactors.”

Folok’chon spoke up now.  “We have analyzed your level of technology.  It is far more advanced than ours.  I think that without the emperor holding back your society’s advancement for his on gain, you would have probably discovered FTL centuries ago.  Once the mystery was revealed, my technicians were shocked that you hadn’t already had the technology.”

Ormond’s blood boiled.  How many citizens had wasted decades and centuries in relativistic travel when they could have lived a normal life and seen family and friends?  The thought sickened him.  He had sent many of those people on their long journeys knowing that everyone they loved would be dead before they returned.

He looked up with rage filling him.  “What do we do now?  How do we remove the emperor from power?”

Reginald sat forward.  “We have two important phases.  First, we need to find a way to deactivate the emperor’s nanobots.  He is nearly invincible with them still active.  Any wounds that we inflict will be healed instantly.  The nanobots also give him increased physical and mental abilities.  Ormond, you will need to go into the imperial archives and find out what you can about the nanobots and how to disrupt them.  The records will be in the most secure section, so only you will have that kind of access.  No one will blink at the High Exarch entering a restricted area.  Once you figure out how do defeat the nanobots, I will hide myself in the throne room ready to confront the emperor the moment you disable them.”

Ormond looked up.  “So, what is the second phase?”

“That’s where our new friends come into play,” Reginald grinned.  “Before we disable the nanobots and confront the emperor, the Ontarians will take their ships to just outside the system and wait.  You will inform the emperor that an alien invasion fleet has been discovered nearing our system and request permission to send everything we have to intercept them.  This is crucial as we do not want to have to fight our own fleet.  If this turns into a full-fledged civil war, countless lives will be lost.  We must do our best to avoid that fate.”

They all nodded in agreement.  “Once the imperial fleet is too far away chasing the Ontarians, the ships of the divine crusade loyal to us will FTL into Earth orbit and secure control of the system.  The moment the fleet jumps into orbit we will need to confront the emperor immediately.  With the fleet gone and us in control of all of Earth space, the emperor will be on his own, without nanobot enhancements.  I will strike the final blow and end the false god emperor’s reign.”

It was decided then.  The gauntlet was thrown, and the Rubicon had been crossed.  There was no turning back now. 

The plan had gone to perfection.  Ormond had found exactly what he needed in the imperial archives … and even more.  The Ontarians kept moving farther out of range of the imperial fleet.  They had a speed advantage and could stay out of effective weapons range forever.

Ormond had initiated a system wide reboot of all communications systems.  They would be down for more than an hour.  There were safeguards against putting both primary and secondary systems on maintenance at the same time, but he was the High Exarch.  Not even the computers would question his commands.  He simply told the computer to disable the safeguards and initiate the reboot.

When Reginald’s ships arrived in orbit seemingly out of thin air, the two long time friends were ready in the throne room.  The emperor was discussing the chase of the alien fleet with one of the royal court.  He didn’t notice Ormond come up behind him and activate a micro-needle to inject him with compound that would permeate his entire body withing a minute and would corrode and break down the materials that the nanobots were made of. 

That was the great secret of the nanobots and the reason for the divine waters of life in the royal garden.  The nanobots were susceptible to a particular compound manufactured only in the human body.  In amounts normally created by the body, they would break down slowly.  This is why the royal family drank from the waters of life.  They needed to replenish their nanobots.  In the amounts that had just been injected into the emperor, all the nanobots would be gone in three minutes.

Ormond sent a message to Reginald via the data link to his implant.  “Successful.  Three minutes.”  It was a short message, but it was all Reginald needed.  In three minutes, he would step out of the shadows and confront the emperor of the Terran Empire. The false god emperor (cursed be his name).

At the appointed time, Reginald stepped out of his concealment.  He stepped into the center of the throne room and threw off the robe he was using as a disguise.  As the assembled saw his uniform with all its decorations and fringe, they realized that a powerful man had just entered the room.  They stared in awe and backed away leaving him alone standing directly in the center of the imperial seal on the floor.

The emperor noticed the room fall silent and looked around to see what had disrupted so many distinguished guests of the court.  His eyes fell on Reginald, and he couldn’t believe what he was seeing.

“High Lord Beauregard,” the emperor began, “I scarcely believe what I am seeing.  Aren’t you supposed to be off purifying a new world for me?”

Reginald stood his ground.  “Those were your orders.”

The emperor regarded him with a puzzled expression.  “Then why is it that I see you standing before me when you shouldn’t be back for more than four centuries at a minimum?”

Reginald was about to speak when the emperor yelled, “Kneel before your emperor when he addresses you.”  There was rage in his voice.

Reginald simply, calmly looked at the emperor and said, “No.”

All around the room there were hushed murmurs and people whispering about the blasphemy they had just heard.  He heard many say something along the lines of “did he just say no to the EMPEROR” and “this man is already dead; he just doesn’t know it yet”. 

Instead of continuing to rage, the emperor smiled.  It had been a very long time since anyone had the courage to tell him “no”.  He admired this man for his fortitude.  He was still going to kill the man, but he had to admit that he had guts.

“I don’t think I quite heard you correctly, High Lord.  What did you say to me?”

“I said no.  Never again will I kneel to a false god.”

The emperor chuckled.  “This should be entertaining.  What, pray tell, is your reasoning behind saying that I am false?  I am truly enthralled by this whole spectacle.  Almost as enthralled as I will be watching your very slow and painful execution.  You have already paid for this little speech with your life.  I will do you the courtesy of allowing you to finish what you came here to say.  Consider it your last words.”

The emperor sat on his throne and motioned Reginald to continue.  He told of his divine crusade and what the emperor and his oracles had told him about this world and its people.  He told of the battle of Ontaria and his subsequent revelation about the emperor.  He concluded by telling the assembled that he could prove that the emperor was not a god.  Everything was laid bare before the most influential people in the Terran Empire.

The emperor began a slow clap.  “There is just one thing that I am confused about.”

“And what is that?” Reginald asked.

“How exactly are you supposed to prove that I am not a god?”

He stared at the emperor and smiled.  “Why, I’m going to kill you of course.”

The emperor activated his panic alarm that was concealed inside his robes.  Nothing happened.  He tried to use his communicator to call for security forces.  He got only static.

Reginald came forward.  “I bet you with you didn’t have that ridiculous rule about not allowing common soldiers into the throne room.  Having a couple stationed in here as guards would come in pretty handy right about now.”

The emperor turned toward Ormond.  “High Exarch, kill him immediately.”

Ormond didn’t move right away, but when he did it was not towards Reginald.  The emperor never saw the blade as it entered his body, but he felt the searing pain as Ormond twisted it and sliced his torso open from navel to nipple.  The emperor collapsed to the ground with his internal organs falling out of his abdomen.

“What is happening?  Why am I not healing?” the emperor said in an almost child-like voice.

Ormond cradled the dying emperor, his head in his lap as he bled out on the floor. 

“I deactivated your nanobots.  There are none left to heal you.”

“But, why?” was all the emperor was able to get out.

“You know why.  Fight no more.  Your reign is over.”

The emperor pulled him down so that his lips were close to Ormond’s ear and whispered his final words.  The god emperor died right there in front of all in attendance. 

Ormond brought the communications systems back online and broadcast the recording of what had taken place to the entire empire.  All seen through the recording implants attached to Ormond’s eyes and ears.  He could record anything that he saw or heard.  Since the comms were down, he knew that the people would need to see what happened as soon as possible.

One year later.

Ormond, Reginald and Folok’chon sat in the ornate office just off the main chamber.  Very shortly, they would convene the very first parliament of the newly formed Terran Republic.  The recording of Reginald confronting the emperor coupled with the brutality of Ormond’s assassination of him, saw Reginald, not Ormond, elected as the first High Minister of the republic parliament.  Ormond would take a much less public, but highly important role as the ambassador to the Ontarian people.

The moment the parliament was seated for its very first session, Reginald was going to put forth a motion that the Terran Republic sign a treaty with the Ontarians forming an alliance.  As part of that treaty, it would be considered a capitol crime for anyone to order or participate in genocide.  Never again would the human race allow a leader to order them to commit such atrocities.

As they sat there waiting for the ceremony to begin, Reginald turned to Ormond.  “I have been meaning to ask, but it has been a busy year.  When the emperor pulled you close, he whispered something in your ear.  You never showed the playback of that.  What did he say?”

Ormond grinned.  “How much have you studied our ancient history?  From before the empire, before we even had space flight?”

Reginald thought for a moment.  “Just what they taught us in school.  Pretty thin stuff up till the formation of the empire.  Then we get more details after that. Why?”

“I found something else when I was in the Imperial archives.  It was about the emperor, but I didn’t have time to read it then.  So, I downloaded it to study later.  I didn’t know what the emperor’s final words meant until I studied that mysterious file weeks later.”

“The empire was formed by accident.  After we had a few colonies out in space, there were a couple of different factions vying for control.  One faction decided that they needed better leadership.  So, they decided that they would take the greatest leader the world had ever known and clone him.  The poured over historical documents and analysis of historians throughout the ages.  They all agreed on one man.  A general from one of the early European countries who rose to the position of emperor.  His empire nearly conquered the entire world.”

“They found his tomb and extracted fossilized genetic material.  It wasn’t complete, though.  They had to add in some of the missing pieces.  They messed up.  Some of the ‘patches’ they made to the genetic structure were faulty.  Whereas the original person was a reasoned and patient man, this new clone turned out to be a megalomaniac.  Before they realized their mistake, it was too late.  He had already assumed control of the faction’s armed forces and was making moves to take over the others.  He maneuvered them into fighting each other until they were all too weak to oppose him.  He then conquered them one by one until every human holding was under his control.  He named himself emperor and ‘adjusted’ the records so that no one would learn of the empire’s true beginnings.”

Reginald leaned forward.  “How does any of this relate to his last words.”

Ormond grinned.  “Apparently, the flawed cloning process carried some genetic memory.  The emperor had the memory of his predecessor’s death.  Not consciously, but when his brain was almost dead, it triggered that old memory.”

“The original historical leader was murdered by a crowd of public officials.  Senators I think they were called.  When he reached out to his friend, he saw that he was holding a blade as well.  As he died at the end of his friend’s blade, bleeding from many other wounds from the other senators, he said three words to his friend.  The same three words he said to me.  It’s in an old dead language.  Here it is.”

Ormond projected the holorecording onto the surface of the table before them.  It was from Ormond’s perspective looking down on the emperor.  You could see him reach up his hand to the nape of Ormond’s neck and pull him close.  Then the final three words of their god emperor.

“Et to Brute?”

The translation came up at the bottom of the recording. 

“From the Latin ‘And you, Brutus?’”

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