Monthly Archives: July 2014

SR: Warriors – The Nights Can Be Long

The Silver Realm – The Warriors

The Nights Can Be Long

He did not want to open his eyes. He tried to be as still as possible. He attempted to relax and clear his mind. Perhaps he could fall back asleep. If he didn’t open his eyes he wouldn’t see the clock and he would not have to get out and do it again.

It wasn’t that he hated the work. No, he loved it. It was just that there was almost always a dark side to deal with and the memories of the battles and the horrors witnessed start to mount as the years go on.

If he didn’t see the clock he could continue pretending that this life was his real life. He could wake up later and go to a regular job like the rest of the people on this planet. If he could fall back asleep, he could pretend for another day that he was just another guy.

He rolled onto his side and tried to fall back asleep. It was no use. He could hear all the sounds of the highway only a block away. Every car and truck sounded as if it was right outside of his window. His small hope falling asleep vanished when the train whistle blew. Another slow thundering freight train, and a long one at that.

He rolled back over and looked toward the clock. He opened his eyes. The brightly lit clock was covered with a cloth to keep his room as dark as possible. Slowly he moved his arm over and lifted the cloth. It was 4:37 am. Crap.

There was no avoiding it now. He had to get up.

Minutes later, he was climbing in his truck in his running clothes. The temperature was 25 degrees and he could see the frozen ice on a pothole full of water from the recent rain. If the rain would have waited a couple of hours, it would have been snow. Not that it would have mattered. He had to go no matter the temperature. He started the truck and headed to a local high school’s track.

He always stretched a little. He knew that the latest medical research pointed toward cool down stretching rather than warm up stretching. Still, his calf muscles cramped almost every time he skipped the warm-up stretches. He finished his warm-up and started walking to the finish line.

He ran one mile in one direction on the track and the second mile in the opposite direction. His story was that this helped his knees and prevented injury. There was truth to that but the main reason was that he used the turn around to synchronize his departure and arrival on this planet with the same on his destination. He walked across the finish line and his image shimmered.

The school’s transportation department was right behind the track and the director, a middle aged man named Bob Thompson, came in to work between 5:00 and 5:30 am each day. He had to see who called in on the computer as sick so he could adjust the routes. Today, he had arrived at 4:40 am and noticed that crazy, bearded old guy warming up on the track again.

He had watched him before and saw that he ran 8 laps. Always 4 in one direction and then 4 in the other. He never saw anyone else do that. Weird. Oh, once in a while he would only finish 6 or 7 laps but then he was usually limping. He saw the old man on the track one Saturday and got a good look at him in the light of day. The old man was about 50 to 55 years old. He stood over 6 foot tall and was balding with a lot of gray hair on his head and in his full beard. He had a bit of a pot belly and usually leaned forward some when running.

The old man did not do that slow running that was almost walking but he was not fast either. One of the coaches told him that the old man seemed to run about a 10 minute mile, as if he knew what that was supposed to mean. The coach went on to say that it was pretty good for a guy his age. Whatever that meant.

The transportation director finished logging into his computer and looked back out the window. The old man was finishing his warm-ups and walking to the finish line. Crazy, running the opposite direction on the track for the first 4 laps. Really weird. The old man walked up to the line and then he was all blurry for a moment.

Bob shook his head and then rubbed his eyes. He looked again. The old man was doing just fine. He was lumbering along at his normal speed. Sometimes, when he went around the corner just right, he would look as if he was falling forward. Bob watched for one lap and then went back to work. What a weird old man. Who would be out in the freezing cold running? Why didn’t he just get a treadmill? Moments later he forgot about the old man as he saw that he was short two bus drivers.

The young man felt the tears in his eyes as he reviewed the scene in front of him. So many good men and women had died already and he was to blame. he had talked them into fighting against the invaders. Outnumbered by well-trained alien soldiers, they had fought a mostly hidden war that had stretched on for four years.

His name was Jon Trostren but the media called him General T. There was no real reason for it. A news article, years ago, gave him the title in a story that had little to do with the truth. Still, his supporters jumped on it and the name stuck. The truth was that he had been a restaurant manager and volunteer firefighter before the aliens attacked.

He had been at work when the rays hit his hometown. He was under the vent hood and the metal protected him from the devastation that fell on those exposed. Two billion died that one day. The sadly ironic thing was that the rays came from a weapon one of the world powers had developed to stop the aliens.

The old-timers had argued against it. They spoke for months at the World Congress against developing new technologies. They reminded everyone that the planet was under the protection of the Order of the Silver Star and that enemies could only use our own technologies against us. The world no longer believed that the Order existed and the fear mongers won the day.

Two days after a successful test of the weapon, the enemy showed up in hundreds of small ships and positioned themselves over all the major cities. The World Congress was given untilthe sun set on the Great Hall of Peace to surrender. They didn’t, and the aliens released the rays. The next morning, all of the countries in the world surrendered except for his country, Kingsland.

Kingsland was still strong in the belief in the Order and they knew the world caused this mess. They deployed the old uniforms of the Order and fought back when the aliens tried to take control of the utilities or the government buildings. The rays did not work when they wore their helmets from the Order’s uniforms and the enemy was forced to fight man-to-man.

Still, it did not take long before the warriors were all dead and there was no one experienced left to fight. So a new generation took up arms. Jon was the first of the new group to win a major skirmish and be given a new name.

Even though their country was the only one on the planet that had fought back it had made an impact. For four years, the other countries around the world sent them troops and funds to keep the fight alive. It had worked and they grew stronger and stronger. Once they started to have an impact, the aliens brought forward other technologies to destroy them.

He remembered the morning of the first high-tech attack. He sat up in his cot and felt something slide off his chest onto the floor. He reached over and turned up the lamp. On the floor were a paper and an amulet. The paper said, “Wear the Amulet of Freedom and their technology will be worthless.” He didn’t see how it could hurt so he started wearing the amulet. It worked; the aliens’ technology was negated by the Amulet of Freedom from the Order of the Silver Star. Soon, they were starting to push the aliens back and the amulet drove morale to high levels. People began to believe that they might take their planet back; however, the influx of mercenary fighters stopped their successes.

About a year ago, the enemy started using electronic sweeps for life forms in the field. This destroyed their guerrilla tactics by eliminating the ability to hide after an attack. They tried using tunnels and caves but the sweeps could penetrate great distances under the ground. They were forced to fight in the open as regular soldiers do. The enemy started winning again.

He had approximately 15,000 soldiers when the ground battles started to take place and now he was down to 3,000 with many of them wounded. The enemy had suffered also but they just brought in replacements by the shipload whereas his came in slowly. Morale had dropped and along with it his number of new recruits. He knew that he needed a victory soon or all would be lost.

So, he knelt in front of his officers that morning and prayed while holding the sword of the Order. The sword was supposed to have powers but he never felt any. It was beautiful but beyond that not special at all. Yet, when he prayed this time, he thought it warmed a bit. Wishful thinking he was sure. Some of the officers joined him but most mumbled about how the Order died years ago in the galactic peace that followed the great wars due to a lack of need.

The field in front of him was long grass that drifted into the distance between two hills like a painting on a wall. The field was long and narrow running east to west. It started narrow on his end and widened up until it reached the river where it narrowed a bit before drifting to the hills.

The enemy was almost directly across from him and was forming up at the edge of the woods. He was on the north side with hills at his back. He always fought with an escape route nearby as thathad allowed for their survival in the early days. Today he was not so sure, as he would not be able to move through the rough hills easily with so many wounded.

Gloom was setting in among his troops as the enemy prepared to attack once again. He looked around and saw no one working to fire up their companies. They all looked resigned to their fates and he didn’t have any more inspirational words for them. Four years had used up all his words. He ordered the officers to form up their companies. He turned toward the enemy and prepared to do battle.

The enemy started across the field and his officers moved the companies into defensive positions. Everyone was looking across the field when a shimmering occurred in the middle of the field.

Jon felt the amulet growing warmer and his sword started to glow. Soon a light appeared above the shimmer and formed into a brightness that replicated the Amulet of Freedom, although much larger.

All of the soldiers on the field stopped to watch as the shimmering increased. Soon a hazy image appeared. The image solidified into a man walking. Moments later, the shimmering was gone and the man stopped in the glow of the brightness. In a short time, the brightness turned off and all that was left was the man.

He wore black boots that rose above his knees and had a gold band around their top and another gold band at the ankle. On the front of each boot, in the gold area near the top was the symbol of the Order of the Silver Star, an outline of an angel with a star in her outstretched right hand. His pants were laced with white glowing lines of force flowing through a black material. His belt was black with gold trim and had a gold buckle with the symbol of freedom from the amulet engraved on it.

He wore a breast plate that covered his body from his neck to his belt. The plate appeared to be metal but flexed as he moved changing shape so that there was no discomfort to the wearer. He was wearing a long jacket made of another unknown material that ran from his neck to just above his boots and was open in the front with a catch chain at the waist. His helmet had a silver band that ran around his forehead and above it his head was covered with a black metal. The helmet came down and covered his ears and the back of his head and neck as it draped over his jacket. He was wearing gauntlets that covered his jacket sleeves and ended just before reaching his elbow. The only part of his body showing was his face.

He was a tall older man with an easy smile and laugh lines by the corners of his eyes. Yet, his face still had the hard lines formed by lots of serious work with the tan and weathered look of someone who spent time outside working. He had a full beard that contained more white than black.

He looked around the field with deep set light brown eyes that appeared to glisten with gold and were topped with thick eyebrows. When he completed his quick review he motioned to Jon and the commander of the alien forces directing them to come to him. The battlefield was quiet and everyone waited to see what the commanders would do.

Jon stepped forward right away. The man had the marks of the Order and hope blossomed that his prayers may have been answered. The alien commander hesitated a bit and then stepped forward also after indicating to his guard to accompany him. He came forward with ten heavily armed soldiers.

Jon approached the man and could see that he was older, probably around 50 to 55 standard years. Yet, he did not look past his prime and in fact radiated a confidence that surprised Jon. When they had all reached a distance within a sword’s length he had them stop. Once again, his eyes swept over them. His look made Jon feel as he did when his dad had caught him doing something wrong. Clearly the alien was even more uncomfortable as he nervously fidgeted. The man quit his scanning and looked at the alien commander.

“Why are you violating the treaty of the Order by bringing outside warriors into battle? Do you understand what that allows the Order to do?”

“These are my men. We brought them from our world.”

The old man laughed and pointed to the ten men standing behind the commander.

“These are from two systems beyond yours and half of your troops are mercenaries from even further. Do not lie to me. You might make me angry.”

“I don’t care if you are angry nor do I care about a dead treaty for dead men.”

“Do I look dead to you?”

“You are one old man. You mean nothing.”

“Then you are refusing to comply with the treaty and remove the violators?”

“That treaty died with the signers.”

“The Tall Man is alive and I ask again – are you refusing to comply with the treaty and refusing to remove the violators?”

“I am Supreme Commander Krused of the 13th Brigade and we crushed the Tolgrate Rebellion in three days. You and your treaty can go to Hell.”

The commander turned and walked away. The man turned to Jon and motioned for him to return to his lines. The man walked with him.

“Do you mind if I join you today?”

“Not at all. Are others coming to help?”

“I don’t think we will need them.”

Jon was shocked and did not know if this man was crazy or not. Surely one man could not make much of a difference.

“I have less than 3,000 men and women to his 15,000. That is not a fair fight.”

“True, true. Still, he might not know the situation is unfair.”

Jon was stunned. Somehow, his prayer brought him a crazy old man. What would the troops think now? They approached his lines and he motioned for his officers to come forward. It was risky. The enemy could send a blast their way and take out the entire command team. However, with what had just happened he knew that the meeting was needed.

The officers lined up casually in front of the old man except for seven. Those seven created a straight line and knelt down in front of the old man. He smiled.

“Your prayers were heard today and the Order will respond.”

He took his hand and reached into his pocket of his jacket and drew out seven amulets of freedom. He placed one around each man’s neck. Two more officers stepped forward and knelt in the line.

The old man looked at them with a sad face that showed a deep understanding and a slight hard edge of wisdom.

“You are willing to line up for an amulet. Yet you did not pray this morning and your thoughts moments ago were rather disturbing. No. The amulets go to those who have believed and held strong during the dark times.”

The men were shocked to their cores as they realized the total meaning of the old man’s words. Truly he must be of the Order if he has knowledge of their thoughts and feelings. They were shamed and stepped back with heads down.

“Do not be ashamed and stand proud. The person who fights for honor and follows the Order’s ways can be proud, even if their belief is not strong. Your time will come.”

Then he motioned for the officers to gather around. He raised one finger as if to tell them to wait and he drew his sword. Everyone could see the concentration on his face as he waited for something.

Suddenly, he turned and thrust with the sword. An explosion sounded across the field and a blue light flew out of the tip of the sword shooting across the field where it impacted with explosive shells that had just been launched. Twenty three more times the sword flashed and each time the shells burst as they came out of the launcher. The attack stopped.

The old man stepped toward the battlefield and spoke some strange words. His sword glowed and it was almost as if a humming sound filled the air. He swung the sword in an arc encompassing the launchers. Orange pulses exited the tip of the sword and flew through the air crashing into the launchers. Each of the machines exploded with great force sending fragments into the enemy’s lines killing hundreds and disrupting their organization. The war had just changed.

Two of the officers came forward asking for Jon to begin the attack.

“They are confused and off guard. We should attack now.”

The old man stepped in front of the group and said, “No.”

Everyone looked at him and confusion flowed through the group.

“You need to prepare your soldiers for the coming battle. Please take a seat so I can explain.”

The officers moved around behind the command tents and sat at the benches there. The old man started to give directions. The troops were first divided into two groups. The old man, Jon, and the seven officers with amulets would lead the soldiers who believed in the Order. These men and women would attack the foreign fighters with the advanced weapons. This group numbered about 400 and they formed up in four sections front of all the others across the length of the enemy’s line.

The second group formed in sections along the forest and was given the task of plugging any holes that formed in the 400 as they countered the enemy’s attacks. It was made clear that they were never to move past a mid-point in the battlefield and their main job would be to cover for the medics pulling the wounded to safety.

Most of the army thought that 3,000 against 15,000 was suicide. Now, they saw this old man leading 400 against 15,000 and could not understand it at all. The other officers argued against the plan over and over. The old man held firm against the arguments. He said that 400 believers could destroy 15,000 mercenaries any day. The ranks of the 400 swelled with pride as they learned of his comments. Their beliefs told them that they could not lose if the Order was on their side.

The 100 men in each section formed a rectangle with 5 lines of 20 men. In front of each section were two of the officers wearing an amulet of freedom. All of the 400 and their officers were given a red skull cap to put over their heads, red gloves to put on their hands, and red boot covers for their feet.

In front of all of the men walked the old man and right behind him, Jon. The old man led them onto the battlefield with a confidence that the numbers and the visual scene could not support. Still, murmurs went through the lines of the soldiers left in the woods that they wished they were out there with them.

Supreme Commander Krused was finishing up his reorganization when the old man led his 400 onto the battlefield. The explosions disrupted his offensive front lines but did no damage to his secondary. He had hoped the enemy would attack because his men would not have been surprised and instead were eager. Cleaning up the mess and reorganizing had given him time to bring up more advanced weapons so it was a plus for him either way.

Then he saw the old man leading them out. It made no sense. They were already outnumbered and a defensive stance would be the best. Also, if he was going to attack, it would have made sense to do it while they were cleaning up. Attacking now, after they reorganized, made no sense. And to only bring out 400 – this was an insult to his men.

Supreme Commander Krused called forth two of his best officers. First right-hand Wedf and Second right-hand Pces were given orders to take 200 of their top men each and cut down the arrogant 400 and end this insult.

The old man stopped halfway across the battlefield and waited. If his analysis was correct, the enemy commander would first try to humiliate them. Then he would attack with advanced weapons. Finally, when none of that worked, he would attack with all of his forces to overwhelm them. Arrogance was usually very predictable and he had to rebuild the morale of his own men. Calm confidence was needed.

First right-hand Wedf did not like the situation at all. He did not believe the enemy would be destroyed. He saw the devastation that the old man’s sword wrought against their launchers and believed only an all out attack on all fronts would work. Still, he was not in charge. So, he took his men toward the east corner of the 400. He would attack with a sweep around to try and get to the back of the men. The commander did not believe that all 400 were top men and felt that the weaker ones were in the back.

Second right-hand Pces hated this planet and all the people. He was looking forward to crushing these fools. Everywhere they went, the army under Supreme Commander Krused obliterated their opponents. This time it would be a massacre and the sooner it was over, the better it would be for him so he could leave this junk heap of a planet.

The old man saw the two groups coming out and he stepped up. The group coming on the East was particularly grim so he started moving toward them. The closer they got the faster he went until he was running full out toward them. The officers behind him were also running but not able to keep up and the 400 moved at a slow trot under orders to stay in formation.

Second right-hand Pces saw the crazy man and stepped in front of his men by two paces but he was not going to tire himself out. As the man moved faster and faster he started to lose confidence. When the man was almost upon him, he motioned to two men to join him. They hesitated.

The old man leapt into the air at the last possible moment just outside the range of the man’s sword. He rose to an impossible height and twisted in a 180 while in the air. He came down behind second right-hand Pces with his sword slicing down with him. He hit the ground and rolled backwards and executed a spin as he rose off the ground. The sword spun with him and sliced the two men who were now stepping forward.

The old man jumped over the still falling body parts slicing with his blade like a hot knife through butter. By the time his officers caught up with him, they had to step over a multitude of bodies strewn with blood. The scene was hellish and the officers fell in with him. In a short time, before the formation could join them, the small group of enemy fighters left alive turned and fled.

First right-hand Wedf had not engaged the enemy when the old man hit the other group. Before he came up on the 100 he was engaging it was clear that his partner’s group would be worthless. Still, if he could get behind them, perhaps it would be his turn to cause chaos.

Jon had been given orders to stay with the formation and move to the first group that was attacked. He recognized the tactic and moved himself to the far outside of the group. As the enemy pushed around the east side, Jon slipped to the back and pulled two of his best men out of the middle to come with him. He met the first right-hand Wedf head-on as he came around the side.

Jon lifted the sword of the Order and was shocked at how light it had become. The soldier he faced went to block his blow with his sword but Jon’s sword, which was now glowing, cut right through the blade as if it was paper and then through the man. Soon he found himself facing the enemy officer leading the attack.

First right-hand Wedf was irritated that the enemy had anticipated his moves and mounted a counter-attack. He was positive that this would only slow him down until he watched the enemy commander’s sword slice through the sword of one of his men. He activated his electronic counter-measures on his sword and prepared to meet this man.

Jon finished fighting his way through to the officer and found that the other men had cleared a place for them to fight. Jon motioned to his men to keep clear also. The two circled each other for a while. The man lunged at Jon and then stepped back as it was a feint. The Jon made a few moves himself, simply to test his opponent’s reactions. He noticed that the sounds of battle around him had ceased.

Supreme Commander Krused was angry. The old man and four officers killed almost 60 men and caused the rest of that group of flee like cowards. Then his second group was stopped in its sweep and severely crippled. Now, he was watching First right-hand Wedf face off against the commander of the rebel forces. With his troops almost destroyed, he had better win or not bother coming back. Krused called for the General overseeing his advanced weapons to come forward.

The day was almost 2/3 over when the fight started. Jon and Wedf fought an even match for a long time. They had moved in between Jon’s forces, of which almost all 400 were still in fighting shape, and Wedf’s 50 remaining soldiers, many who were wounded. Wedf had a great fighting style and moved like a professional. Jon had little style but, instead, the natural skills for fighting found among so many of the rebel forces, it was almost as if he could sense Wedf’s next move.

They came together in a clench and Wedf was able to slip a dagger in his left hand. As they separated, he stabbed out with the dagger at Jon and sliced his arm wide open. The blood flew and Jon almost dropped his sword. He stepped back and Wedf pressed his advantage. Jon picked up his sword just in time to deflect a fatal blow. Wedf could feel the win and, even though he was exhausted, pressed harder.

Jon felt a warm tingling up his injured arm. The amulet on his chest was warm and energy flowed through his body. Wedf’s next blow was stopped with a strength that surprised Jon. He realized that the amulet had already healed his arm and he lunged forward.

The move caught Wedf off guard. He thought he had his man and he stumbled as he fell back. A moment later his head was separated from his body. The battlefield was silent and then the enemy slowly backed away. Soon, the 400 were the only ones left on the field and a cheer went up.

The old man motioned Jon over and told him to form up the 400 in a perimeter around the rest of his troops with the seven spaced out in front. Then he was to join the old man in front of all of them – quickly! Jon put the plans into place with great speed and his forces responded with an enthusiasm that had not been seen in a long time.

Jon walked up to the old man and heard him praying something about “forgive our sins as we forgive the enemy’s sins.” Jon figured that this would not work too well for his men as most of his soldiers could never forgive the atrocities of the enemy. This old man was proving to be full of surprises.

The old man stood, looked him squarely in the eyes and said, “You must have pure thoughts and desires for the sword to activate. Revenge is not the answer; however, justice is a good thing to fight for. Your troops are mixed in their motivation. If you want to succeed, you need to change your attitude and the attitude of your officers. Justice rather than revenge, fairness rather than favoritism, representative government rather than dictatorship, and so on.”

The old man paused and put his hand on Jon’s shoulder.

“I can help you with the violations of the treaty but you have to be righteous in your actions and have a goal people want. Have you given others your version of the country or world after you win? Without that vision, you will not be able to sustain your forces. Look at your officers, only seven prayed. Why have any officers in your cause who do not believe? You must let people know what you stand for because everything you used to have is gone.”

Jon felt embarrassed as he realized that in the past year his leadership quality had diminished dramatically. He was beginning to understand why his recruits had dropped.

“I am sorry. I guess I gave up on the possibility of winning.”

“Don’t worry. You have done more than anyone else on the planet and today your prayers have elicited the help needed for a new spark to light the fires of your rebellion. I would just hate to see this spark wasted if you are not willing to make the changes needed. I can move the violators out of the picture but that still leaves some serious forces for you to deal with.”

“I will do all that you say. I have a vision that I used in the beginning. I will not slack off again.”

“We all do from time to time. That is why you need to make sure that those closest to you are true believers in your vision and, in my opinion, the Order.”

The old man held up his hand for silence. Then he said, “They are ready to attack.”

He turned toward the enemy and held up the sword. A blue pulse went out from his blade to the officers with amulets and the troops with the red caps. The pulses increased and formed a glowing dome over the entire group. The dome had just formed when the enemy struck.

An orange beam of heat flashed across the field and struck the dome. The dome sparked and flashed but the beam did not strike the soldiers. Three times more, the beam struck the soldiers in formation with no damage.

The dome was glowing brightly by this point and the soldiers were thrilled and yet nervous at the same time. Many of them were having trouble not running away. Then the old man pointed his sword toward the dome. The pulses now ran back to the sword leaving the dome just barely glowing and the sword glowing so bright it hurt to look upon it.

The old man turned back in the direction of the enemy and pointed his sword toward them. A beam of orange heat flew out of the sword as the old man swung the blade across the length of the enemy’s formation. The beam hit the soldiers and equipment melting them all. It happened so fast there were no screams, only a foul burning smell.

Jon and his men realized that what they were watching was supposed to have been their fate. Some of the officers knelt and gave thanks. Soon all of Jon’s troops were kneeling and praying. The old man turned to look at Jon’s troops and smiled.

Supreme Commander Krused was devastated. Two thirds of his forces were gone and his most advanced weapons had proved dangerous to his own men. He had had enough. Krused picked up his comm and contacted his ship. He ordered the ship to destroy the enemy’s camp immediately. No one crushes him.

Jon was walking toward his troops and his officers were smiling and shouting at the him in positive cheers when the old man’s voice boomed out at them all.

“Get in position – now!”

Everyone was shocked but moved quickly to return to their formation.

The old man called Jon to him.

“Get help. You will need to hold me up.”

Jon motioned for two other officers to come over and they positioned themselves around the old man. The old man raised his sword to the sky with both hands. He had one officer hold each arm and Jon hold him from behind. They had just gotten in position when the green beam crashed down from on high. The three men were barely enough to help the old man keep the sword up.

The air around them crackled and they started to feel light-headed as felt their strength fading. Jon was just about to fall when the beam stopped. The old man straightened up and took a step forward.

The old man’s skin started to glow. His clothes began to smoke and all the metal on his uniform turned orange while the sword became so bright that it hurt to look at it. Suddenly, a beam of orange light blasted upward out of the sword into the sky. The old man fell to the ground.

Jon started toward the old man and then fell to the ground as an explosion in the sky rocked the planet itself. He looked up to see debris falling across the sky as if the most massive fireworks display ever was set off.

Jon reached down and helped the old man to his feet. His clothes were burned and still smoking. His sword was on the ground and burning the grass on which it was laying. The old man picked up the sword and placed it in its scabbard. Then he turned to the enemy and started across the field.

Jon motioned to his officers to bring the troops and they formed up behind him. The old man led them across the field with confidence and almost a bounce in his step. Jon was amazed at how his life had changed in such a short time.

Jon turned to look back at his soldiers. He saw them marching tall, proud and with a confidence he had never seen. In the distance, he could see many of the wounded hurrying to join them. A smile came across his face and he felt his heart soar as the possibility of winning this war came back to him. He realized how long his heart had been in darkness.

When he turned back to the enemy, he saw them rushing to organize themselves and he knew it was too late. Just as he was getting ready to slow down and prepare for the attack, the old man shouted, “Attack. Run”

The old man started sprinting toward the enemy and the rest of them tried to keep up while staying in formation. The enemy was not in formation yet and the old man hit them as if he were a wild bear from the woods. Before Jon and the rest could catch up, the old man had seven down and was literally leaping through the air towards a group of three more.

The battle rage and soon panic filled the enemy lines as the intensity of the assault hit them. In moments, they were retreating as fast as they could. Jon found himself without an opponent to fight and looked around. The old man was nearby in a tent with his sword at the throat of one of their officers. Jon moved closer.

“The next time, we will blast you out to bit if you even enter this area of space without the Order’s permission. Is that understood?”

“Yes.”

“You have till sunrise to remove all of your personnel and equipment.”

“We cannot be done in that amount of time.”

“Do you want the cease fire or shall we bring our ships in?”

The enemy commander was disgusted but not stupid. He definitely understood what would happen if he did not agree. After a few moments of hesitation, he hung his head and averted his eyes as he said, “Fine. We will be out by sunrise.”

The old man nodded and indicated for Jon to come over.

“Please provide your best men to escort the commander to the landing field. We do not want any harm to come to him due to accidents.”

“I will take care of it immediately.”

Jon called a couple of officers over and gave them directions. They selected a couple of soldiers and left with the commander. The old man went over to a chair and sat down.

“It has been a long day.”

The following morning, Jon and the old man stood in the field and watched as the last group of enemy troops left the planet. It turned out that only a few hundred of the forces arrayed against them were from the planet. Those soldiers were long gone and Jon’s forces now controlled the entire area.

The night also saw many new recruits coming out. They increased their forces by over six hundred during the night. For the first time in years, Jon would have to have multiple groups training. It was a good feeling and he hoped that he was up to the challenge of maintaining and promoting his vision.

The old man seemed restless and, except for his short time sitting in the chair, had not stopped working since he arrived. The recent activities had left him with a filthy, burnt uniform and multiple cuts and abrasions on his face. Jon was impressed that the old man had handled the past day at his age and was still on his feet.

He was about to speak to the old man when the old man said, “I have to go.”

“The remaining enemy ships have just left orbit and the monitoring satellites are activated. You should be safe from outside interference.”

“I really appreciate your help and hate to see you go. Can I ask you a question?”

“Yes.”

“What is your name?”

“Some call me the Drifter and others the Destroyer.”

“But what is your name?”

The old man turn toward the field and, as he looked at the rising sun, a shimmer appeared over the field. A light appeared above the shimmer and formed into a brightness that replicated the Amulet of Freedom, although much larger.

All of the soldiers on the field stopped to watch as the shimmering increased. The old man walked into the light. As the old man walked away he started to fade and then he was gone. Moments later, the light faded to a shimmering and then it was gone also.

Two of the officers came up.

“General T”

“Yes.”

“What was his name? The men would like to know.”

“The Drifter.”

“Well, I would have thought the warrior or something similar.”

“Some call him the Destroyer.”

“That sounds better. That is what I will tell the men.”

The officers were walking off and Jon heard a small voice in his head say, “Of course I prefer two other names – dad or grandpa.” Jon smiled and he was sure that he felt the old man smiling also.

The old man stumbled a bit as he crossed the finish line on his 8th lap. He prayed thanks for his return and the water that was waiting. The water tasted wonderful and it was great to breathe normal air again. He walked almost a full lap before he was fully adjusted to the planet once again.

When he returned home, it took 35 minutes on his machine to clean out the foreign chemicals from his body. Then it was into the shower to wash off any residue with his restorer. There were so many easier ways but he was not allowed to use any technologies not already available on this planet. By the time he finished, he needed to prepare for work. No rest for the weary.

The old man’s secretary was a little late to work. She hated being even a couple minutes late as her boss was almost always there. He was one of the first at work, even if he came in extremely late from an away game the night before. He was also one of the last to leave, many times not leaving until ten or eleven at night. His work schedule intimidated many of the staff and everyone knew that his expectations were high. However, he was always complimentary when she did a great job and he always enjoyed a good laugh. He just seemed to always keep a part of himself in reserve and held a professional veneer up that he seldom let down.

She walked to the copy machine and looked out of the window behind it. She saw him coming from another building up the sidewalk. He had a slight limp this morning and she could see his pain with each step. Of course, he would disguise it if he thought anyone was looking. Still, on occasion she saw his unguarded expression and knew his pain somewhat. Today was going to be difficult day for him. He grimaced when he took the steps up to the building. She looked away as he entered the building.

“Good morning sir.”

“Good morning. How are you today?”

“I am doing fine. And you?”

“Pretty good. Just a few stiff spots.”

He went into his office and picked up some papers. He came back out and it was clear he was trying not to show his limp.

“I have to take these papers to the other office. I will be back in a little bit.”

“OK.”

She went to the window and watched him walk back to the other building. He tried to cover his pain but he was not able to hide it from her anymore. She shook her head and went back to work thinking that he should just relax once in a while.

The old man walked to the football field instead of the other office. He needed to have a moment to gather his thoughts together. The previous night was painful and he did not recover as easily as he once did, even with the amulet. He had lived a long time, way longer than anyone around him knew. He sat down on the top row of bleachers and looked out over the horizon. It was so beautiful. He felt at peace and took a moment to pray.

 

In the distance, keen eyes watched him from the shadows with interest. For many years the old man had battled in the night and lived in the day. For years he had served the Order loyally. The eyes watched the old man finish his prayers and then go back to work. The man behind the eyes was satisfied. The old man was still a valuable asset and stable. There would be many more nights for him. He may be getting older but he still had what it took and he was grounded strongly with his faith and his family.

The tall man smiled, stepped out of the shadows, and walked toward a tree. The air shimmered and then he was gone but before he left he thought, “The nights can be long and filled with darkness – but the mornings are then that much brighter.”