Chapter 9: Empire


Earth, September 1st, 2264


The universe had caught its breath.  The Caal had been defeated, humanity was saved, and the Horadrim had walked out of the shadows to unite their races.

Now they were here, in orbit above the ruins of humanity’s cradle.  This planet had been fought over more than Avalon, Demar thought, if that were possible.  The Federation was born here, then an asteroid destroyed it, they rebuilt it, then Admiral Von Shrakenberg crashed the Moon into the Pacific.  No one bothered coming back to this perpetual dustbowl.

Except them; Clarke had asked to be buried on Earth.  He was one of the last breed that remembered Earth the way it was.  Now even that was gone.

In burying the Chairman, they signaled the end of the Federation.  After the Battle of Avalon, Vin Dane was heralded as the savior of mankind.  With the religious cults that spread across the cosmos, he was declared a god.  Vin decided to take the more modest title of Emperor.

As his former bodyguard finished the ceremony, the new Imperial Court watched as Clarke’s body fell back down to Earth.  The speck of organic matter was soon caught up in the dust storm and disappeared.

The changelings gave a howl to signal their goodbye, an ear-tormenting screech which the court had to endure.  Finally they passed by the Emperor, heads held high and defiant, as Vin bowed to each of them.

When they left, Kait turned to Dane.  “Your Majesty, may I speak?”

Vin moaned.  “Amanda, we’re not in court.  You are my chamberlain; speak freely.”

Kait sighed.  “It's a real mess out there.  The Jurvain rebelled instantly, of course.  They overthrew whatever human occupation forces we had left in their systems, then declared the Jurvain Commonality restored.  One of the K’Nes systems broke away already, too... and it’s probably just a matter of time until the rest follow suit.”

Dane nodded slowly, absorbing the news.  “And in the Feder— uh, the human systems?”

“Although many of the old Federation’s systems have declared allegiance to your new empire, there are more than a few which have declared their independence.  Revolutionaries have seized power in some of the old Eastern Bloc and Resistance systems.  On Phoenix, the Ministry of Public Safety has established martial law until th—”

“I get the picture,” Dane sighed.  “And the Earth Fleet?  Or rather, what’s left of it?”

“Well, we’ve received word from Admiral Smythe—”

“With the Poseidon Battle Group?”

Amanda nodded.  “He says that...”  Her voice stopped, afraid to anger her new employer.


She cleared her throat.  “He says that you’re a traitor to the Federation, and he has restored the Grand Council on New Madrid.”

“With himself as Chairman, I presume?”

She nodded again.  “What do you wish to do?”

Dane turned to Palencia.  “Sergeant, would you like a promotion?”

Demar shrugged.  “The Tech Infantry no longer exists... I guess I’m between jobs”  The werewolf smiled.

“I doubt Smythe will agree to a peace treaty, so I’ll need an army... and someone to lead it.”

“You want me as your general?”

“General, marshal, whatever... choose a title you like.  I can think of no one better qualified.”

I can, Vin.”

“So can I, Demar, but they’re all dead now.”

Demar snorted out a laugh.  “Guess so.  All right, I’ll take the job.”

Dane smiled.  “Good.”

“What about me?” Miranda asked.

“I...”  Vin paused as he looked around at the small collection of people who followed him now.  “I had a different position for you in mind.”  Looking at his court, Dane asked, “Would you excuse us for a moment?”

The rest of them bowed and left the two of them alone.  The observation room looking out over the dustball Earth now seemed eerily empty.  Dr. Mayfield shivered from the imagined cold.  “What?” she ventured to ask.  “What is it?”

Vin stepped forward and took her hands in his.  “Until all this happened, I always took you for granted.  I took advantage of you... and ignored you.  Then, when I need you the most, you were there.  I suddenly realized how much I needed you.”

“Vin, I...”

“Please let me finish,” the Emperor asked.  “Miranda, I never want to take you for granted again, and I never want you anywhere but by my side.”  Dane got down on one knee.  “Miranda, will you marry me?”

Mayfield was speechless for a moment.  She had the look of a frightened animal, completely shocked by the proposition.  “I’m not sure what to say.”

“ ‘Yes’ is usually the answer.”

“Vin, you’re not just asking me to be your wife... you’re asking me to be the Holy Terran Empress!  I’m sorry, that’s a bit too much of a social jump...”

“Miranda, I don’t care about the titles, I just want you.”

“It’s not that simple...”

“Are you going to tell me you don’t love me?”

She caught her breath.  “No, I couldn’t lie to you, Vin.”

Dane smiled.  “These next few years are going to be difficult.  I’m going to need a good advisor, a friend, and a confidant.  You are all these things and more.  Please... marry me.”

Miranda couldn’t help but smile back.  After swallowing her fear, she said, “Okay.  I will.”

Then she leaned down and caught his mouth in a kiss.  Both of them felt lighter than air, suspended in the light of a dead world.

When she broke away, the new fiancé shook her head.  “I’m still not sure about being Empress.”

“Don’t worry.”  Vin shrugged.  “The way things are going, we’ll probably be dead in a year anyway.”

Miranda scowled.  “Thanks a lot.”

Dane smiled as he stood up to put his arm around her.  “Come on, let’s go tell them.”

“Which one, marriage or certain death?”

“The marriage.  I don’t think they’re ready for the other.”




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Text Copyright © 2002, 2011 by Marcus Johnston.  All Rights Reserved.
Do not try ANY of this at home.  At least try a peace treaty first!