The Sword of Jupiter - Cover

The Sword of Jupiter

Copyright© 2021 by Lumpy

Chapter 14

Ky was surprised when Lucilla stood and left the meeting room with him.

“You aren’t going to stay?”

“No. The only reason I was there was because you asked for my input, but they would be uncomfortable if I stayed. Honestly, if the emperor weren’t my father, they wouldn’t have tolerated a woman in that room at all, at least not at the table as their equal.”

“That doesn’t seem right.”

“That’s how the world works.”

They started walking out of the imperial palace and into the complex courtyard again. Ky had a moment to consider why he kept coming this way when he needed to think.

“Your presentation was interesting,” she said, breaking the silence.

“Everything I said was the truth. I don’t know what else I can do to prove to all of you that I wasn’t sent by your gods. I’m just a man with a past, just like everyone else.”

“Not just like everyone else.”

“Okay, maybe not like everyone else here, but I’m also not some avatar, either.”

“I still think you were sent by the gods, and you just don’t realize it yet, but it doesn’t matter. Things will happen as they will. Arguing over why things happened rather than discussing what happened is a waste of time. I’ll leave that to the old men who’d spend all day trying to pull explanations about the universe from their minds. The rest of us have too much to do, especially now.”

“I can live with that.”

“Can you tell me what your life was like? You said you came from a place with people, just like here?

“I ... I’m not sure where to start.”

“How about with your parents.”

“I don’t have parents. I mean, I do have parents in that I was born to a mother and a father, but in my society, people aren’t raised by their biological parents. Everyone is tested at birth and split into groups, which we call batches, based on what role they will eventually have.”

“That’s strange. Kind of like the Spartans, although they live with their parents until they reach a certain age before being handed over to the lyceum. I still find the idea that parents don’t raise their children strange. Don’t the parents feel sad, living without their children?”

“No, because they don’t live together. Two adults are assigned to procreate together, based on what type of offspring they are most likely to have.”

“They don’t live together? They breed like ... horses?”

“They do live together. I’m not explaining this well. The entire batch lives in a dormitory together. They see each other every day, along with everyone else from their batch.”

“If everyone lives in one building, how do the parents find time to ... lay together and have a child.”

“Ohh, they don’t. We ... we no longer procreate in that method. The doctors take what they need from each parent, and the baby is grown outside of the mother, in a controlled environment.”


“I was not trained as a doctor, so I have no idea how to explain the process. I just know that is how babies are conceived.”

“People don’t fall in love?”

“I’m not sure. Sometimes there will be one person you prefer over others. Someone you’ll spend time with alone, talking. If that is love, then I guess yes, we do.”

“That isn’t love, Ky. Don’t you find someone you can’t live without? Someone who every organ of your body screams out for?”

“No, I don’t think so.”

“Yet you say you are human. This is the very essence of what humans are.”

“We are human. Biologically we aren’t that much different from you, except that our scientists make alterations as we gestate to increase abilities. Our society is just very different.”

“You grew up surrounded by the same people your entire life?”

“Yes. We took lessons together, relaxed together, trained together. Except for times when we needed to work with others, like doctors or mechanics, the only people we ever saw were those from our batch.”

“Did you have friends?”

“Of course. There were some people in my batch I preferred over others. There was Sara, who was a better pilot than me but was always encouraging and Jax, who died in a test similar to the one I took part in that sent me here.”

“Your friend died, and you did the same test, anyway?”

“Our scientists said they’d fixed the problem that killed him. Apparently, they did, since I wasn’t killed, just sent here instead.”

“You seem so calm about everyone thinking you’re dead.”

“Life is to serve. He did his duty, and I did mine.”

“Your world is so strange. I can’t imagine living the way you described. I am glad you were sent here to us.”

They finished a loop of the courtyard, having returned to the imperial palace. Ky was about to change the subject, when a guard came out, making a straight line for them. Ky had a stray thought that this was becoming something of a pattern, walking around the courtyard with Lucilla until a guard was sent to retrieve them.

The Emperor was alone in the meeting room when the guard brought them to him. He was sitting, straight-backed, his eyes closed and face turned to the ceiling. In an unguarded moment the leader of what remained of the Roman people looked tired and frail. The med-pack may have repaired the physical damage, but nothing could ease the burdens of leadership.

“Father,” Lucilla said softly as she walked towards him.

The Emperor’s seemed to shake himself as he opened his eyes, smiling at his daughter and Ky.

“You sent for us, Imperator?” Ky said.

“I did. I have more to impose upon you.”

Ky sat on the stool next to the emperor and waited, trying to keep his face impassive.

“You need to work on your political face. You aren’t as controlled as you’d like to think,” the emperor said, with a smile to let Ky know he was teasing.

“I have just come to dread those words.”

“Understandable. This time, at least, I hope my imposition will be less onerous. The first thing is more of a benefit of your new station than a task. As Consul, you are allowed twelve lictores. They will work not only as your personal guard but as assistants. While they too are status symbols, I believe you will find them helpful as aides as well. I spoke with Aelius and Velius yesterday about this. They, in turn, put out a call for volunteers. Every man of the Seventh and Ninth Legions has volunteered. I was going to have them each chose six they felt were appropriate, but I wanted to give you the chance to choose your own men.”

“I am ... surprised that many volunteered. I haven’t met many of the men, at least not personally. The only two that I’d ask for I’m not sure if you could afford to give up. I’d ask for Sellic, Ursinus’s man, and Strabo, one of Aelius’s centurions. I understand if both are needed in their current position and will trust you and the two legates to make the best decision.”

“While I’m sure both are important to their commands, especially Sellic, who is the only member of Lucilla’s guard to survive the trip to Glevum. I have a suspicion that, once he hears of your request, Ursinus will find that he can make do without the man. You shouldn’t be surprised. You’ve done much to earn these men’s trust and admiration. I will tell Aelius to select four men and Velius to select five men. I am confident both think highly enough of you to select quality men for your service.”

“If I am counting correctly, that is only eleven men, not twelve. Not that I wouldn’t be fine with fewer men. I personally have no ambition to have soldiers of my own.”

“You will have twelve. The last will be selected later, as I have a few ideas on this.”

“Emperor, please take no disrespect from this, but I feel your hand manipulating events around me again.”

Germanicus let out a chuckle, shaking his head ruefully, “You’d be a fool not to. Of course, I’m manipulating events around you, it’s what I do. I hope you know I think the world of you, even after only knowing you for such a short time. I promise I will not place more of my schemes on you than I think you can handle.”

“I did say I was at your service.”

“I’m glad you remember that because I have two other requests.”

Ky was surprised at what was becoming his automatic response. The Emperor’s requests rarely seemed to bode well for Ky personally.

When Ky did not object, the Emperor continued, saying, “Beyond the opening day of the games, there are two other high points of the Games of Sulla. The first, called the Tests of Jupiter, is held at the midpoint of the games. Men perform feats of might and skill, judged by the crowd, with the winner being hailed Jupiter’s finest. I will be clear, these are not gladiatorial matches. The skills on display vary from games of boxing to feats of strength to precision archery. As the officially anointed Sword of Jupiter, I would like for you to put on a display of some kind. The choice is yours.”

“My performance doesn’t have to be like the other games I saw, does it? I will not put up with participating in that.”

“No. Like I said, this isn’t a gladiatorial match. You can choose the contest, and it can be non-violent, as long as it’s exciting.”

“I will think of something then.”

“Excellent. The second is during the final day of the games when the Plebian Contests are held. This is specifically wrestling. We again ask for you to participate in that.”

“Fine,” Ky said, not wanting to open the door to any other requests the man might have on his mind.

“Father!” Lucilla warned.

“Yes, yes. I was going to tell him.”

“Tell me what?”

Lucilla blushed and looked away from Ky as she said, “The wrestling is done in the Greek fashion. All the contestants wrestle nude.”


“You’re not ... shocked?” Lucilla asked, her head whipping back up to look at him.

“No. I described to you how things worked in my society, at least some. We are not body-conscious. I have no problem with the request.”

The Emperor grinned widely and said, “I was certain that was going to be a sticking point. Ky, you never cease to amaze me.”

“Don’t take my non-protest as happy acceptance. While I have no problem with the style of wrestling required, I am not happy with how frequently I am being trotted out as a trick pony, sent to amuse the crowds.”

“This should be the last, for a while at least.”

“Then, as long as this doesn’t interfere with what else I have to do, I should be fine.”

“Excellent. With that, I believe you will find Ramirus in the front hall.”

Ky stood and bowed, “Thank you, Imperator.”

Ramirus was in the front hall, talking with a shorter but significantly stockier man with thick black hair cut close to his head. They had tucked themselves in an alcove away from the other groups of Romans gathered around the front entryway as well as the path of those heading to various points inside the palace. Ky slowed as he approached. He did not want to interrupt their conversation, especially if it was sensitive in nature, as Ky assumed many of Ramirus’s conversations were.

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