Cogs of War

Sighing heavily, Andela’s head slumps towards her desk before hanging defeated, propped up by her arm. Pushing her glasses up the bridge her nose to rub her eyes, the strain of the dim lighting threatening to transform into a headache. The sun had been down for hours and judging from her windows view of the moon, it was late.
The draft resolution lay unfinished, silently taunting her. How long had she been stuck at this point. Too long, that much was certain. Usually she’d stop for the night, start again after some sleep, but unfortunately she couldn’t afford that luxury any longer, the deadline was tomorrow.

Five minutes, she grants herself silently, Then I need to get this done. Leaning back into her less than luxurious seat, she stares out the window at the moon. Not quite a full moon, she realises, Was it a full moon when I first agreed to this take this nightmare of a job? She marvels at how naive she’d been to think that a desk job would be less tiring than field work. I’ll take my sword over this any day, at least there’s honour among soldiers.
Turning away from the moon to face the sword hanging on the wall behind her desk, Andela rises from her seat, feeling the weight of the hours behind the desk weighing heavier than her soldiers kit ever had. Stretching out whatever tension she could, she clicks her tongue then speaks to the sword, “What would you say if you could see me now I wonder, sir

“I’ve been wondering that for a while now,” crossing her arms across her waist as she leans on the desk, “This was your genius idea after all. Would you be proud of me, fighting the war from the rear?

“How many years has it been? And still no end in sight. You underestimated the opposition we faced, either that or you overestimated what I’d be able to do about it.

“The empire is crumbling all around us, and no-one’s willing to look out the window and face it. Even the soldiers on the ground keep sending rosy stories describing how the most recent lost garrison or uprising is well under control, or playing right into our hands somehow.
There’s absolutely no chance the senate approves the changes we need to hold the land we’ve already got. As far as they’re concerned I’m a glorified tax collector, the pompous bloated swine. If I was out there I could actually have some impact, or at least I wouldn’t have to spend every waking moment banging my head against this wall.”

Staring impassively at the sword, receiving no response, Andela recognises the tension in her muscles and exhaling slowly forces herself to relax. Stupid.
Turning back towards her desk, she spies Zlatan stood in the doorway of her office. Years of practice allows her annoyance to manifest as a polite impassivity. His smile, usually described as charming always felt vaguely sinister to her. She remains standing as he speaks, “May I come in?”

Wordlessly, Andela gestures to the seat across her desk, sitting only as he does. Shutting the door behind himself, she always felt guarded around him, not because he was particularly imposing. He didn’t have the intimidating presence of a brute or a killer, after all.
He was perhaps half a head shorter than her, undeniably attractive, but more beautiful than handsome. She wasn’t intimidated by attractive men, and besides he was definitely not her type. He was rich, and he wore that wealth plainly how he presented himself, but money didn’t frighten her either.
Whatever it was in the man that made her uncomfortable, she couldn’t place it, but it was there.

“I apologise for eavesdropping, General. I overheard you as I was leaving, say that you didn’t believe the senate would approve something vital to the empire’s stability, is that correct?”

Seeing no reason to lie here, Andela inclines her head in affirmation.

“I see,” he leans forward across the desk, “I suspect you might be right. The Senate was originally created to give all of The People the chance to be represented, even the common folk. Unfortunately the Empire has become too centralised, too stagnant.
I want to do something about that.

“You are a good soldier, General. I’ve spoken to some of the soldiers who served under you, and the good majority of them speak very highly of you. I think you are someone who is the kind of person you want to have as a friend.
I like to think that I might be the same kind of person for you, may I see your resolution?”

Thousand Eyes of Heaven, what a snake. Her first reaction. Her hand on the resolution resists her decision to slide it across the desk towards him, her instincts reacting as if she had stuck her hand into a vipers nest.
Time seems to slow as the page crosses the distance between them, rushing back to full speed as Zlatan takes the page and reads it.

His eyes scan rapidly across the page before lifting over it to face Andela, “You’re asking for a lot here, is so much truly necessary?”

“This would be enough to stem the bleeding,” she answers, taking back the page, “Our funding has been stagnant for years. Numerous positions have been left vacant because they’re seen as unnecessary. Right now, we’re losing ground, if this was to pass we could probably stop the backward momentum. Retaking what’s been lost would be far more costly.”

Zlatan is silent, watching her like he expected her to continue. Then slowly, seemingly cautiously he asks, “And that is the course of action you would take?”

She shrugs, his caution making her suspicious, “I’m a soldier, my role in the senate is to advise in matters of the military. For a military solution, I would spend everything that was necessary for a decisive resolution immediately, rather than bleed for a century then die.”

“And if you were advising beyond a solely military solution?”

Raising an eyebrow, “The uprisings come from the burden of taxes and the sense of separation from the Stella. The Empire’s golden age came out of the time the Empire built, instead of simply taking.”

Smile drawn widely across his face, Zlatan nods and rises to his feet, “I’m glad the army is in the hands of those who know history. I appreciate you sparing the time to share your thoughts, I won’t take up any more of your time. Best of luck with your resolution tomorrow. I’m sure we’ll speak again soon.”

For me, one of my favourite things in stories is when a system exists that is impacted by the actions of innumerable individuals. While I can turn my brain off and enjoy a story where things like massive armies just work. I’m always particularly intrigued when a story has the time to explore the difficulties of politics, bureaucracy and infighting.

Colonel Mustang in the anime Fullmetal Alchemist, is one of my favourite examples of this, as the story itself is high energy with lots of fighting and shouting, the fact the Mustang exists and operates in the background for so long with the goal of becoming the Fuhrer from within. I’m sure there are better examples, but he’s one I enjoyed.

Hope you enjoy it,

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Author: Zairron

I'm writing to build a habit, practice, and be creative.

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