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12: God Emperor of Kathoom II

Posted on Fri Aug 14th, 2020 @ 9:55am by Commander Rita Paris & Lieutenant Commander Mnhei'sahe Dox
Edited on on Wed Aug 19th, 2020 @ 9:52pm

Mission: The Bulikaya Particle
Location: Kathoom, Nexus Dimension
Timeline: 3,946 years A.R.
Tags: Rita Bulikaya

Looking up at the aqueduct above the small town, funneling water to the city in the distance while others lived in squalor filled her with a quiet rage. But for now, Rita Paris had work to do.

“B’Jen, if I follow that aqueduct it will lead me to the city? Where this ‘church’ is located, I assume?” In her head, Rita was already formulating plans, child endangerment not being one of them.

“Y…Yes. But that is also the headquarters of the Magistrates, and they are many.” B’Jen seemed nervous, the old fears taking root again.

Kneeling before the child, Rita Paris took his arm in her hand, to clasp it and lend her words strength with a touch. “Men will always seek to use force to subjugate, to cause fear, to compel compliance. But words are far mightier than any spear or sword, and they can change worlds.” Adding under her breath, “Not always for the better, it seems...”

There was a moment of understanding, as she spoke words of wisdom, and the boy felt his heart swell, like when his mother smiled at him or his father was proud of him. She was not what he had expected at all, but Riaris... or Rita Paris... was... nice. He wanted to like her, despite her strangeness and the dangerous things she said and did.

It was then that the young boy’s eyes grew wide with fear, as he saw Magistrates massing in the street outside the alley. Glancing over her shoulder at what the boy saw, the golden-clad commander made the decision. Scooping the young boy up in her left arm, she vaulted onto the roof of his neighbor’s home, and began racing across the rooftops at a rather remarkable rate of speed.

As the boy let out a momentary gasp, he quickly found himself in awe as he looked down un the meager village he had always lived in. Below, he could hear shouts of the Magistrates.

“Impossible! She bounds into the sky, almost taking wing.” One of the Magistrates said, astonished as he turned to the commander, a tall, broad shouldered man with a thick beard and dark, sun-cracked skin.

“How astute. Focus your observations on the task of catching them.” The Commander barked as he looked down the alley. “They head towards the center of town, but she will not stay that course. Go, my Phalanx. Six of you down the eastern path toward the center of town. You six, round the eastern perimeter. I shall take you six this way. I believe she will turn north.”

As the large cluster of leather armored soldiers took off in different directions, the Commander ran through the alley, troops at his heels, as the golden-clad figure bounded for the aqueduct.

“I’m sorry B’Jen, but I think I’ve endangered you through proximity... hold on around my neck, I’m going to sprint here,” from bounding across the low ramshackle rooftops, she hit the ground at the edge of the piazza. There, the faithful were still gathered about the dry fountain in the center of town, with the slender carved image of Riaris rising from the center, reaching for the stars. Sprinting, even with a child in one arm, the woman was surprisingly fast, and she easily bounded over the minor obstacles she encountered.

In high school and into her Academy days, Rita Paris had been a cross-country runner. Because she believed from an early age that the ability to cover distance quickly might just mean the difference between life and death on some alien world, lightyears from home. It was a theory that had been proven a great number of times throughout her career- today being yet another in a long line of such examples.

Ahead of her, a pair of Magitrates with their brush-topped helmetsvmaking a golden halo over their heads, set their pikes for a charge and prepared for her. In three long strides, she was upon them- then hurdling over them, track and field style. The lighter gravity worked in her favor, and she once again marveled at the restraint that Sonak showed in the lighter gravity of standard Federation vessels and worlds.

By the time the Magistrates got turned around, she was already a dozen meters distant and still in motion as she sprinted toward the aqueduct

In the square, there was commotion. The villages were still assembled, praying to the statue of their savior from the stars as the real deal leapt over their heads like a vision wrapped in gold that glistened in the midday sun. There was a collective gasp as they watched in shock.

“The RITARIS!!! She has returned!”
“Like in the stories, she can leap above the very STARS!
“I saw her! I saw her!!!!”
“It cannot be!”

Then a man stood up from the crowd in shock as Rita vanished from sight behind the furthest buildings of the village and whispered, “B’Jen?”

Turning, the whisper wasn’t quite quiet enough, as the Commander of the Magistrates narrowed his gaze. “That man!! Bring him to me!”

Two of the armored men grabbed the middle-aged peasant, wrapped in a ragged linen cape and dragged him to the commander, who looked him in the eyes with a cold glare. “That boy. The one with the renegade criminal. You know him. Is he yours?”

The man froze in fear, not knowing what to do as his knees shaked. Leaning in, the Commander lowered his weapon and softened his face. “He is. He is your child, is he not? The woman who has him has taken him by force. We must catch her and protect your boy. But first we must know all that we can of your boy. WHY would a blasphemer take your son? What would he tell her?”

Over her shoulder, the boy pointed. “Papa!”

Pausing in her flight, the Starfleet officer rolled her eyes and sighed. Always expect complications, Rita. When do your plans ever go smoothly? Turning, as they stood perched atop a stacked stone chimney, she saw the tableau, old as time- the father had recognized his son. The oppressors had moved in, planning to leverage the family’s love for obedience.

A cold fury sprang up inside her at the sight of such a thing, in her name.

“That’s your father, the Magistrates have there?” she asked simply, and the boy nodded.

“Looks like it’s time to see if words are stronger than spears,” she said as she launched herself back toward the center of town.

Gasps started to roll through the humble assemblage of believers in the center of town. Turning, the Commander narrowed his gaze and watched as the crowd of locals parted, dropping to their knees, their hands over their left breasts as they began to murmur in unison, ”The Ritaris.

“Phalanx, form a perimeter around me.” The Commander said, bringing his pike to B’Jen’s father’s throat as two of his men forced the man to his knees. “Who are you to use the image that brings these people peace only to strip it from them with violence, agitator? We shall brook no false gods here. Show these humble and loyal citizens the truth and spare them the cost of your folly.”

As the Magistrate Commander spoke in a loud, commanding voice to the far end of the town center, the entire crowd was falling back on their knees, crawling away as Rita began walking through the parted crowd, a defiant expression fixed upon her face as the young B’Jen clung close behind her.

“My name is Rita Paris. I’m Starfleet, and I’m here to help,” she began, speaking in a loud, clear voice of command she had learned at the knee of some of the greatest starship commanders in history. “I represent the United Federation of Planets, an interstellar union of planetary governments that agree to exist semi-autonomously under a single central government, based on the principles of universal liberty, rights, and equality, and knowledge sharing for the betterment of all.”

As she spoke, she continued to stride, in her unhurried pace, toward the Magistrate, who had B’Jen’s father on his knees, with a weapon to his throat. Holding the child’s hand, she squeezed it a bit to try to reassure him and lend him courage in this frightening situation.

“I came here many years ago, and I taught equality, acceptance, the power of coming together to rule onesselves, not to serve masters. But it seems my lessons have been forgotten. You hoard water, which is for all to share. You threaten and rule through fear. You hold a father hostage, threatening his life so you may punish a child, and for what? Daring to not cower to you quickly enough?” Stopping in front of the man, Rita Paris continued speaking at the same volume, because she needed to be heard by all.

“This is not what I taught you. This is not the way. Drop your weapon and surrender yourself to your fellows of this village. You are all equals, and you should all live in peace, not under the rule of bullies and tyrants,” Rita directed, speaking to the crowd before she turned back to the Magistrate with his weapon at the throat of the terrified peasant.

“I give you this opportunity to see the error of your ways, and change your life. I wish to heal with words, not with violence. But if you harm that man, your damnation will be complete. Listen to your heart- it knows what you are doing is not right, and that this is not the way. Your heart knows we could all be better, together, and that you were never meant to rule over these people, but to defend them. Yours is to serve and protect, not to enslave and oppress. Remember that in your heart, and choose your path- here, now, today. Show these people what you truly stand for.”

The powerful words hung in the air with all the weight that Rita had hoped for, as the crowd seemed to take in a breath all at once and hold it. Waiting.

Holding Rita’s hand, the silence cut deep into B’Jen, who trembled as he called out, “I… I’m sorry, Father. I didn’t…”

But the older man with the pike at his throat cut the child off, his own voice cracked, but no longer afraid. “No, B’Jen. You have done nothing wrong. None of us have. You followed the way of Ritaris as your grandmother taught you… and you were right.”

While he spoke, the Commander’s eyes narrowed as his gaze shifted from Rita’s stern countenance to the ring of his men that surrounded him, keeping him separated from the gilded, pale woman standing against him, and then to the crowd of peasants on their knees.

Until his eyes fell upon the first of them to rise from those knees. It started with only one, frail looking woman at the rear of the crowd. As Magistrate Commander for this region, he knew the woman. She was soft spoken and reverent. A good, humble servant of the church who always knew her place. Now she was standing up, her chapped lips pursed and defiant.

Then another stood, a young woman of barely birthing age, her eyes confused but unafraid.

One by one, the crowd stood until nearly half of the village's meager population was standing, their eyes fixed not on the woman in gold, but on the Magistrate Commander.

The pike held at the neck of B’Jen’s father was ever so slightly shaking now in the Commander’s hand as the older, thickly bearded man in the sun-beaten red armor looked concerned. “Return to your homes! Do not defy the will of…”

HER will!” Came a voice from the crowd, as pent up frustrations, generations in the making, made themselves heard for the first time.

The Commander tightened his grip on the handle of his pike, as he gritted his teeth in anger. More voices began to rise along with more people, until every villager was standing. Every eye upon him. Every voice beginning to elevate beyond whispers and murmurs. Cries to release his prisoner. Cries of anger. Cries of a population that had long since had enough.

Turning his gaze back to Rita, the Commander hissed back at her, “What I stand for? I stand for the rule of LAW! The rule of order and OBEDIENCE, which you twist against these good people!” He was doing his best to try and wrest control back from the increasingly angry crowd. But in his voice there was only anger and fear, and it could be heard.

YOUR ACTIONS HERE WILL DOOM THESE PEOPLE, WOMAN!!!” He roared as he pressed the tip of the pike further against the man's throat, eliciting an audible choking sound that echoed across the plaza.

“My actions here are the truth. That’s why these people are not doomed, but in this moment, uplifted. Do not damn yourself, I beg of you.” Stepping forward, one hand still holding that of the child, she held out the other open hand to the Magistrate. When she spoke, her voice did not ring out in the tones of command. Instead, they were soft, and warm- the tones of a teacher, trying to reach a pupil. “Let that man go. Help these people, and help yourself. Be better than this.”

As the crowd’s resolve strengthened under Rita’s words, the Commander’s began to crack further. “Phalanx!!! Keep them BACK!!! SHOW THEM THE WAY!!!!!

With the loud scrape of metal on dry stone, the first Magistrate did just that. Dropping his pike, rather than raising it against the villagers, one of them turned away from the crowd to face his commander, “Sir… I cannot.”

The Commander’s eyes went wide as the color blanched from his sweat-soaked face, and his clenched teeth trembled. Then, one by one, the sound repeated as one by one, each man dropped their weapons into the dusty stone of the village center.

“Strength is in unity, in helping one another. Not in forcing compliance from others. There is forgiveness if you seek it, and you are a part of this village, connected to us all. You don’t have to stand apart... you can belong,” the golden-haired heroine pleaded, trying to reach the man with her words.

She could disarm him, stun him, distract him- there were a dfozen different ways this could be handled to rescue the boy’s father and avert tragedy. But she’d told the child that words could be more powerful than spears, and now she had to prove those words true. Because the course of this young man’s life was being set, right here and now. The lesson she taught him here would echo throughout his life, and possibly throughout his civilization. So while there were options, today, Rita had to be better.

Hera help me, she offered in her mind to the one to whom she offered thanks and praise. While she might be the inadvertent maternal figure of Kathoom’s religion, the surrogate mothering Hera provided to her seemed almost cyclical to her, and she resolved to have a talk about that with the goddess when she returned home. Assuming she would.

Determined that she would.

The next voice came, not from the crowd of believers, the humbled Magistrates or even Rita herself, but from the man on his knees, no longer being held there by soldiers. With the pike still pressing into his throat, his voice was cracked, but steady. “Listen to her, J’Darrin, please.”

At the sound of his own name, the Magistrate Commander turned with a start to the man he was threatening, his eyes now a mixture of fear and confusion. “You are a part of this village. We have broken bread together. This is not who you are. We were friends, once.”

With his grip on the pike weakening, the Commander licked his dry lips and looked around at the crowd, who were now totally fixed upon him, waiting to see what he would do next. “T… the way is obedience. The… the way is reverence. The way is…”

“Peace.” B’Jen said, letting go of Rita’s hand and stepping forward as her heart swelled with pride at the brave boy’s actions. “We are stronger together. That’s what she said. That’s what’s written on the statues. This is what it means, sir. Please, let my father go.”

Shuddering, the Commander’s grip weakened and his pike fell from his hands. Dropping to his knees, the weight of his actions over the years settled upon him like a wave of shame. As he fell, B’Jen ran to his father, and the two hugged in the center of the village while a collective gasp arose from the crowd.

Stepping forward, Rita Paris offered her hand to the humbled commander.

“Rise up, J’Darrin of Kathoom. Today is the first day of the rest of your life.” The platitude seemed a little trite, but in all her adventures, ‘savior of legend’ was a new one on her. So as usual, the lost navigator was improvising, plotting a course as the universe hurtled her onward.

Looking down at the pike sitting on the ground at his knees, J’Darrin’s shoulders felt pulled down by great weights. With tears being held back only barely, the Commander shook his head like a child caught in a lie. “I cannot… I do not… I have not served your word. I have done terrible things… believing them just. I cannot be forgiven.”

“Yes you can, J’Darrin,” the golden-clad pink-skinned woman explained as she knelt beside him, her hand on his shoulder. “Every day, we make choices. We know the voice in our hearts that tells us the right one, and if we listen to it, and make our choices based on that, then every day, we are a bit better at being decent people. Every day we strive to be a bit better, to help our neighbor, to give of ourselves. You can be forgiven if you seek it, and live your life as a good man, J’Darrin. I promise.”

At that, she held out her arms to the man, inviting a hug from her vanquished opponent, in his hour of emotional crisis. When his worldview had been shattered, and his rationalizations for the life he had led now swept away. When the living figure of their religion he served had refused to kneel to him in submission, yet chose to kneel, to comfort him.

Slowly, he looked up into those glistening blue eyes that were filled with compassion and understanding, and blinked. In his mind, he had come to see the Ritaris as a figure of dread that created obedience through fear. Yet here was a woman reaching out her hand, and offering forgiveness.

Taking the hand, he bowed his head to her and squeezed her hand in his own. In that moment, he was touching his God ,and with that simple gesture, his worldview was shattered in a way he couldn’t have imagined. The silence was broken as the crowd began to cheer and smile. Throughout the people, various voices could be heard repeating ancient mantras and religious exaltations.

“Glory be to the Ritaris!”, “The True Word is reborn!”, “This is the Way!”, “Praise the Way!”

Rising, the Living Tarim looked around, and made a few decisions. “B’Jen, who tiles the roof of the town?”

As the boy pointed to a particularly dark-skinned individual, Rita made her way gently through the throng of hands that wanted to touch her, and spoke to the tile layer. Turning back, she made her way through the sea of people, smiles and touches for all, until she returned to B’Jen and his father.

“I’ve got some places to go and some people to see,” Rita explained. “But first, this village deserved water from the aqueduct. So we’re going to perform a little engineering, with the help of my friend Palum here. So B’Jen, let’s all go to the crack in the wall, shall we? It’s time this village got itself a cistern...”


The crack was widened, then as the tiles created a drainage flow system, a cistern was created in short order with the cooperation of the village, and a wedge was crafted for the crack, to seal it when no one needed water. Now the village would have water, the stuff of life, with plenty for all, and the great city would still receive their waters.

This is the way, the crowd murmured, and Rita Paris rather agreed.

Sitting on the edge of the fountain, whose centerpiece bore a likeness of her, Rita consulted with the people, asking her questions of this world she had returned to, and what was being done in her name. She made plain to them her plan to follow the aqueduct to the city of Konaar, there to confront the God-Emperor of Kathoom, and have a few words with him.

Helmet in hand, the Magistrate Commander was contrite and, at first, reluctant to give her specifics. But the guilt he was still feeling was evident as he pushed past his misgivings and answered Rita’s questions. He spoke of the city of Konaar as being heavily guarded, with a great wall at it’s edge that all the aqueducts of Kathoom led into. He told her of the palace at its heart where the High Priests of Fedra’shuun held their services and their rites where they claimed to speak the will of the Ritaris. It was something that, even as he spoke, he realized was another lie he had believed.

“Within those walls… there are thousands of Magistrates. The High City is controlled by the Priests and the Priests answer directly to the God-Emperor.” J’Darrin said, eyebrow raised with concern. “And the city itself in a full days walk at least, from this place. The sun is still high in the sky at this hour. You will need…”

Pausing, the military-minded man reminded himself he was speaking to his goddess and looked down. “Forgive me, Great Ritaris. I speak of the needs of mortals with one who can touch the stars.”

“You are considerate and you seek to forearm me with knowledge- no apology should ever be offered for such aid, my friend,” she smiled, knowing the humbled man was vulnerable, and trying to give him a bit of a bolstering. “But fortunately, some of the legends were true.”

Standing, she placed her hand on the shoulder of the magistrate Commander J’Darrin. “You have opened your heart, and today, your village rejoices, and is brought together as a flourishing community. I’m very proud of you for what you’ve done today, J’Darrin. Keep it up.”

As the man looked awkward and uncertain of what to say, Rita turned, eyes searching the crowd. “B’Jen, where is my first guide in this modern Kathoom?”

Standing near the statue, B’Jen was next to his father speaking, when he heard his name. “I am here, Ritar… Rita.” In spite of still having to remind himself to not call her Ritaris, he had a lifetime of his god being the ‘Great Ritaris’, and it was a hard habit to break.

Leaning down, she whispered in his ear, entrusting to him the location of her tomb, and how to safely access it without destroying the cultural significance of the archaeological find. When she had imparted the knowledge, she leaned back to look the youngster in the eye.

“You helped a stranger. You sought to provide for your family. You tried to protect me against oppressors, and reminded me that I cannot flee my problems, I must face them- with an open hand and an open heart. Thank you, B’Jen, my friend. I will never forget you.” With that, she hugged the young boy, clasping him to her prodigious bosom.

“I… none of us… will ever forget you either. Or what you’ve shown us.” The boy, who was a bit more mature than his age thanks to the hard life that he had lived here in the impoverished village. “You… you showed us the true way. You freed us.”

As he spoke, he hugged her back tightly, amazed at how warm and real his goddess was.

“You freed yourselves,” she replied. Letting the boy go, he returned to cling to his father, who offered a grateful smile. Holding out her arms, Rita cleared a bit of space. Grinning to the crowd, she couldn’t resist showing off just a little bit.

“Not all of the legends are untrue,” she said as she shunted her armor out of the pocket dimension in which it resided, then activated it, bringing up the lights and the HUD. Sensors online, she plotted her course, then waved to the crowd. “Be excellent to each other!”

With a chagrined grunt at her own line, Rita began to sprint out of town. The lighter gravity combines with the augmentations lent her by the EVA armor made her into something of a golden flea, and she ran, then bounded, the leapt into the sky and activated the anti-grav pack, to carry her in the rest of a rather spectacular leap onto the top of the aqueduct.

As Rita vanished into the horizon, the people of the small village marveled at what they had just witnessed. The Ritaris returned to them, a flesh and blood woman who was somehow greater even than the myths and legends upon which they had been raised. As some of the people of the village began to kneel again, trying to process what they had just experienced, the young B’Jen looked up and said with a smile. “No… remember. She doesn't want us to kneel. She wants us to stand... together.”

In time, he would be known as B’Jen, The First Guide. Many would follow.


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