3. The Emperor and Pizza
“… And so, they had to spend three days digging the ‘unstoppable’ land crawler out of the bog! Six crews, both Union and Emerald, four cranes and a pile of very naughty words.” Ian laughed as they ate pizza.
Steaming hot from the little heater. The pizzas were printed in an antique machine, it reminded Irelan of the way they used to in the kitchen at their old home. Irelan loved pizza since she was a kid.
She was big now, and knew how to press the button to make it go when Ian in the green armor looked like he got stuck on what part of the screen needed to be touched.
She printed out olives and cheese; her favorite. Ian and her mother printed crazy stuff that was nasty. It smelled okay, but she never liked the rest of the stuff they put on it. Including mush brooms, which they seemed to like.
Irelan made a face when she watched as her mother lifted one mush broom and eat it while she listened to another story by the one she heard them call, “Triton”.
“So, Sir.” Larsya started.
“Ian, please. We are eating here, no formal titles.”
“Ian. How did you get in here without anyone noticing?” She asked.
Then, he laughed and choked on a bit of pizza in his mouth.
“Not everyone missed me. Irelan here, she saw me come in and I sat next to her. We talked while you were giving my Lieutenant a hard time.”
“No one saw you come in.” Larsya pressed.
“No, adults don’t. Kids see me all the time. There’s something about the focus of the kids versus adults. It’s a result of a vaccination long ago. I can walk into a room, and unless I speak up, no one will notice if I don’t want them to. Even if they look right at me, adults don’t register my presence easily. “
“Do you have a stealth tech that you use?” Ensign Firston asked.
“No, as I said, it was from a vaccine. There was an emergency. We had a virus that had been transplanted on this planet by the first colonists. No one knew who the first patient was, but it over a thousand died in less than a month and we had no vaccine. The protocol for synthesizing the vaccine came from the Pirate Confederacy with uncorrected errors in the formula.” He took another bite. “There were tremendous effects from the virus on their planet. We had some, but nothing like they suffered.”
Ian smiled at Irelan and handed her a napkin.
“For my effects as a kid, I found I could be overlooked by standing still. I used the effect for my stint as a leader. Then T’mpace was my mentor because I could sit in the back of a meeting and no one would think I there and just talked. I gave him reports, he appointed me to the General Council after that. When I served on the High Council of the Two Colonies, I then had a chance to take the chair as leader of the High Council.
A heavy sigh came from him. Like a pain in the soul.
“The world fell into fighting, and the Council dissolved a month after I took my position. That left me as the only leader of an empty room. No one wanted the job, and everyone looked to the chair. “ He swallowed another bite of pizza. “I declared myself Emperor out of anger, and everyone nodded. Seriously, I was only kidding!”
Larsya shook her head. “That’s not how it’s supposed to happen.”
“I know! I just wanted someone to get mad and come sit down. They all bowed and said ‘Okay’ and, well, here I am.”
“No one challenged you?” Ensign Firstof’s head bobbled like it was on a spring.
“Careful son, you’ll strain your neck.” Ian chuckled sadly. “At first, I had a great idea. People needed to get out and move, get into the forests and walk, hike and otherwise enjoy the terraformed lands we have. But, the game became polarized. People took sides after a year and became worse than when the fighting dissolved the council. Then, they started shooting and this place has been a case of the Union against the Emerald. So, I lead from the front lines. I walk around, no one can see me when I do. It keeps me alive, I think.”
“How do kids see you when no one else can?” Larsya asked.
“I don’t know for certain, but it is the power of innocence, I think. They have limited information, but they have these powerful minds. Not much information, indeed, but they have super-computers for brains. So, I think they see things that adults have long forgotten how to observe.” Ian reached for his fourth slice of pizza. “They still see magic in the world.”
“And besides,” He pet Irelan’s head. “She’s my favorite fairy here.”
“I’m not a fairy, I’m a girl!”
“Of course.” Ian said while the room full of adults laughed.
Even the dour Lieutenant smiled.