The Sword of Jupiter - Cover

The Sword of Jupiter

Copyright© 2021 by Lumpy

Chapter 19

Ky returned from the camps in the mid-afternoon and headed back to the rooms he’d been assigned. The days after the battle had been non-stop movement, as he met with key players and started making arrangements. After his early morning tour of the prison camp and meeting with the Senators, Ky had made sure nothing else was scheduled for the rest of the afternoon.

While he had the AI to assist him, he still had to go over a lot of files the AI had prepared, so that he understood the suggestions that he needed to give the Romans. So far, he’d been doing that by cutting out much of the sleep he should be getting every night, but that wasn’t a long term solution. He needed rest, and for that, he needed to make time during the day to work on the plans.

Ky had just sat down at the small table provided in his rooms when there was a knock on his door. Ky sighed and stood. He was still in somewhat of a bad mood from his visit to the prison camp and lack of sleep. While he didn’t want to inflict that mood on his lictores any more than he already had, he’d specifically said he didn’t want to be disturbed.

“What...” he said before stopping, surprised.

Instead of one of his men at the door, he found Lucilla, her hand still raised from knocking.

“Is this a bad time?”

“No. No. Sorry. I just had my mind on some things. What can I do for you?”

She gave a slight glance to the guard at the door before saying, “Can I come in and talk to you?”

“Certainly,” Ky said, stepping aside to let her in.

She walked into his room and turned, standing in the center of the room.

“Do you want to sit?”

“No, I won’t be here long. Tonight is the third of the Ludi Scaenici. The Ludi Scaenici is a series of plays put on as part of the games. It’s a way to honor the gods through story, much like the games in the arena honor them through physical feats. For several years the performances have been mostly farces and pantomimes, which I don’t care for, but tonight Lars Marius Lucilianus is putting on a real play. He is my favorite playwright and it has been some time since he last created a play.”

“Okay,” Ky said, not sure where she was going with this.

“I’d like for you to accompany me to the play.”

“Me? I’m not sure I know much about this kind of thing.”

“It doesn’t matter. It would be considered a high honor for a consul to watch his play, and I think the people would like to see another side of you. You can’t be the warrior all the time. Plus, I would like for you to watch it with me.”

Ky thought about everything he’d planned to do that evening but quickly put those plans aside. She was right. So far, he’d only really shown himself to the public as someone interested in the military. For the people to trust him enough to follow where he needed to take them, he needed them to trust him as more than just a general. Besides, the idea of spending time with Lucilla pleased him. Ky had been enjoying their walks and small talks together, and he couldn’t pass up an opportunity to spend time with her.

“Then yes, I’d be happy to go with you.”

“Great. I will come back this evening and we can walk to the amphitheater together.”

“Good. I’ll see you then.”

Ky opened the door for her and watched Lucilla walk down the corridor away from his room as he considered his reaction to her visit. His mood was noticeably better, which given he now had less time to work on planning than before she’d visited, seemed counter-intuitive. He’d felt something like this when he talked with Sara, back in his old life, but not to this degree.

His thoughts on Lucilla and her visit were cut short when a knock sounded on his door once again. Ky hurried to open it, wondering what she could have forgotten to tell him, only to be surprised once again by the person on the other side of his door.

Instead of Lucilla, he found Marcipor, the blind philosopher.

“Marcipor?” Ky said, surprised.

“I hope I am not disturbing you, Consul.”

“Not at all. What can I do for you?”

“I was hoping for some time to talk with you.”

“Please come in,” Ky said, stepping aside.

The old man reached out, putting a hand on Ky’s arm after a few attempts to make contact. Ky helped guide him into the room, to one of the chairs at the table he’d been preparing to work at. While Ky didn’t have time for another interruption, Marcipor was an important man that Ky couldn’t afford to offend. Besides being the former tutor of the Emperor and current tutor of Lucilla, he was recognized across the empire as one of its greatest minds. Even the Emperor’s detractors were forced to acknowledge points made by the philosopher.

If Ky could get Marcipor to publicly support the changes he was proposing, it would go a long way to smoothing the transition of Rome from a classical civilization into an industrial one.

“What did you want to talk about?” Ky asked once they were both seated.

“I wanted to talk to you about your declaration to end slavery in the republic. The reasoning you gave at the meeting a few days ago was purely economic, but I felt like there was more to it that you weren’t saying.”

Ky considered the philosopher for a moment. This was one of those points where, if he chose right, he could swing things in his favor enough to make his plans truly feasible, but if he guessed wrong, he would ruin everything. Ky had never been trained to judge others and truly get a sense of who they were, behind the mask everyone wears. Marcipor’s mask was harder to decipher than most, his face affable but completely unreadable.

“There is, but I’m not sure I can explain it in a way that will not seem fantastical.”

“Forgive me Consul, but the general opinion of you is that you fell from the heavens, dispatched by the gods themselves to enact an ancient prophecy and rebalance the entire political makeup of the known world. I can’t imagine there is anything much more fantastical than that.”

“Then I’m afraid your imagination doesn’t go far enough, but I will try. Where I come from slavery is considered anathema to everything we believe. Don’t get me wrong, there are still very different classes of society and people of some classes have limits, both actual and structural, put on their choices, but the people are still free to choose their own lives. They do their work the way they want to do, they live in the places they want to live, and they are not required to live by anyone else’s say-so, outside of obeying the laws of the society. The idea of one man owning another is completely foreign to me.”

“I thought it might be something like that, and yet you admit that there are limits placed on some lower classes of people, where you come from.”

“That’s true, but it’s not the same, and I think you know that. You have free men here who have similar limits on their choices, either because of money or allegiances, but you’d agree they weren’t slaves. Where I’m from, it’s the same. It is an old society, but it’s carried a single governing principle for more than a thousand years from my ancestor’s furthest ancestors. It is the belief that all men are created equal and that they have inalienable rights. That is the founding principle of everything the society is built on.”

Marcipor studied Ky over peaked fingers for several minutes in silence. Ky waited patiently, returning his sightless stare.

“I will agree that it is very different from how we live. How did your people come to that?”

“I’m not a historian, so I don’t have many of the details. I know that the civilization was built on the ashes of several smaller societies that merged together, and that was the founding principle of one of those civilizations. Somehow, it managed to retain its place of primacy even as these different cultures merged together and became something new. Again, I’m not a historian, so I can’t explain the specifics.”

“You talk about some great and ancient civilization. Where was this? I know you’ve repeatedly denied being sent from the heavens, but you make it sound as if it was a people older than the Egyptians, before they were conquered, of course. If an ancient civilization existed, I’m certain we would have heard of it by now.”

“This is the part that will seem fantastical.”

“Commander, it is not advisable to explain the details of your origin to the Romans at this time. Models show a high chance of a negative reaction that will put your future in jeopardy.”

“I know,” Ky subvocalized, “but I think if we can get a few people to see what the end goal is, we will have a better chance of success. I’m already stretched too thin. I can’t do this alone.”

To Marcipor, Ky said, “I come from here, actually, but a very different version of here. My people were working on a machine that would allow us to travel between the stars you see in the sky. I was the person testing the machine, and something went wrong. I found myself thousands of years in my past, but a past that did not match the history as we knew it. Things had changed.”

“That is ... hard to believe.”

“Any harder than believing the gods sent me to Earth?”

“Yes. We know from the Greeks that the world we live on sits in a dark sphere, and the stars are breaks in the sphere that allow the light of the heavens to shine through.”

“That is ... not accurate.”

“I know much of the Greek’s reasoning. It was very compelling.”

“I’m sure that they did their best using their observations of the world, but I can tell you it isn’t right. I was born in a special type of palace that floated in the sky, high about the Earth. I have traveled to the moon, where my people also had homes.”

“How did you breathe? We know that, on the highest mountains, it becomes hard to breathe, to keep you from ascending to the heavens. If you were that high, how did you breathe?”

“We had ways of making our own air from the elements around us, breaking them apart and recombining them into the air that we could breathe. Our homes were completely sealed to keep this air in, and we had to be careful not to let the air out of our homes.”

Marcipor was quite for a long time after that, staring off into the middle distance.

“We must seem like ants to you.”

“No, you seem like people. Maybe with simpler machines, but people all the same. When you see someone from a simple tribe, the Picts for example, do you see them as ants?”

“We don’t see them as equal.”

“I know, and that is an attitude that I also hope to one day change. People are capable of so much if given the right tools. The luck of where you are born does not make one person more capable than another.”

“For most of my countrymen, that will be harder to believe than your palace in the sky.”

“I know, but let me ask you this. I come from a people much further advanced than you are to cave dwellers, yet do I treat you as somehow lesser than me?”

“No, but that is why people will continue to believe you were sent by the gods. It allows them to accept your abilities without the need to look at their own world view.”

“I realize the tallest hurdle I will face is people’s own prejudices towards others. That is something that, even in my time, we have not eliminated. If we are going to make this work, though, we’re going to need some of those other civilizations to join with Rome. You’re too small to stand on your own.”

“There are those with a lot of money and power invested in being on top of others. They think power comes from the end of the whip.”

“In my history and your future, there were civilizations that lived like that. They built large armies out of slave soldiers. Those civilizations all eventually fell under their own weight.”

“You will still be fighting an uphill battle.”

“I don’t hold any illusions that this will be easy, but it’s necessary. You can’t transition to the next stage of civilization on brute manpower alone. Your workforce will need to have a higher base level of education and some ability to make decisions to cross that threshold. You will not be able to compete with the Carthaginians on sheer manpower.”

“Well, I appreciate your time Consul,” Marcipor said, standing. “I would like to come and talk to you more, if possible. The way you think is so different I find it ... refreshing.”

“You’re always welcome,” Ky said, standing and walking the Roman to the door.

While he hoped his conversation with Marcipor bore fruit, he was glad to get back to working on all the details that needed to be taken care of projects that had either started or needed to start soon.

The sun had started to go down when he was interrupted again. He found Lucilla at his door again, this time in a dark blue stola instead of the usual knee-length tunic she, and most Romans, wore during the working day.

“Should I be dressed in some specific way?” Ky asked.

He was still wearing his flight suit. He’d taken it off a few times to bath himself but otherwise hadn’t bothered to change since he arrived. The suit was self-cleaning and self-repairing, at least from minor holes and cuts. It couldn’t repair major damage to itself. Before this moment, it hadn’t occurred to him that perhaps he should be dressing in some sort of formal Roman attire if only to make the Romans more comfortable.

“No. Everyone has gotten used to how you look, and the normal rules of what is appropriate don’t apply to you.”

“There are rules for how people dress to attend the play?”

“Ohh, yes. The Ludi Scaenici are important social moments to see and be seen. You’ll see most people there will have brought out their good togas. There was a time when we still lived in the homeland, where apparently people wore togas all the time, but now it’s just for ceremonial moments like this.”

They left the palace, Ky following Lucilla’s lead, since he hadn’t been to the amphitheater yet. His lictores followed a short distance behind the pair. The streets were still crowded, but people moved out of their way without much trouble. Ky didn’t know if it was because he was with the Emperor’s daughter or because he was still an unusual sight, towering above the average Roman in his flight suit.

“Did you watch many plays ... before? Do they have plays where you came from?”

“We have something like it, where performers act out stories for an audience, but we had a way of saving the performance so that people could watch them later.”

“You could save the performance?”

“I’m not sure I’ll be able to explain this,” Ky said, thinking as they walked. “We could make something like a painting, but it was a perfect representation of what was happening, as in it looked exactly like it. We could do this instantly, and make the pictures so fast that when shown very fast, you could see them move. This isn’t a very good explanation of what we did, but I hope it makes sense.”

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