World War: Campaign for Eastland
Copyright© 2018 by Lazlo Zalezac
Pen Flavia, formerly Sword Flavia, entered the room walking gingerly. Her ankles were hurting today, and it made walking difficult. Some days were better than others, but today was a bad one. She was sure that the weather was going to change. That’s when her ankles tended to hurt the most.
Pen Aleksy took one look at how she was moving and knew exactly how she felt. His left arm, the missing one, was itching. There were times when it nearly drove him crazy. It was particularly bad when the weather was about to change. Today it was very bad.
He said, “A storm is coming.”
She replied, “You’re telling me. Based on how my ankles feel, it’s going to be a bad one.”
There were nods of agreement around the room. Just about everyone there was feeling the change in the weather. Gathered in the room were fourteen Jade Warriors, each of whom had been injured in past battles. Upon deciding that they were no longer capable of fighting in the front line, they had all taken courses in law and government converting over to Pen. Nine of them were currently assigned as overseers.
“Is this all of us?” Pen Flavia asked.
“There’s twenty six Jade Warriors in the hospital. I think eight, maybe more, will retire from being Swords or Shields. Two or three of them might consider becoming Pens.”
There had been remarkably few casualties and injuries so far in the war in Ulamb, but there had been some. The regular forces had suffered the most, but Jade Warriors were often at the front of the battle and took greater risks. They were fighting a superior force in term of numbers and the coalition armies were not ill trained or inept. This was war. Lead flew, and people were hit. It was unavoidable.
With some difficulty, Pen Flavia sat down on the floor knowing as she did it that it was going to be even harder to rise. She looked up at the suit of armor at the front of the room, took a deep breath, and closed her eyes. The past few months had been very stressful. Despite not being able to fight, she’d been supporting the war effort. It was nice to sit and meditate.
After taking the moment to relax, she opened her eyes. Pen Aleksy was looking back at her. She gave him a weak little smile of acknowledgment. It was her signal that she was ready to begin.
“I’m sure that everyone is wondering why I asked you to meet me here in the Temple of War.”
There was a general murmur of agreement around the room.
“All of us are Pens. All of us are either overseers or slated to become overseers when additional countries are conquered. For the moment, we are the ipso facto face of the Jade Empire.”
With more of a negative tone in her voice than she intended, Pen Cordila said, “There’s no such thing as the Jade Empire. It’s a fiction we’re using as an umbrella to describe the countries we are now running.”
Pen Cordila, formerly Sword Cordila, was one of the Jade Warriors injured when parachuting in to capture King Ba. Her injuries had included a shattered femur acquired as a result of a lucky shot by a member of King Ba’s security detail. The damage had been extensive and now her right leg was an inch shorter than the left leg.
“Running is a bit of an overstatement.”
“Okay, so we’re overseers. Our job is to say no to things we don’t want to have happen.”
“Our job is more than that. Saying no requires understanding a situation a lot deeper than you’d think.”
Pen Cordila said, “I still think the Jade Empire is a fiction.”
Pen Aleksy said, “The Jade Empire is not a fiction. As far as the world is concerned, we are the Jade Empire. We might not be the ultimate rulers in the individual countries that have surrendered to us, but we are in control. That makes us the public face of the Jade Empire.”
“If it is an empire, then who is emperor?”
Pen Aleksy said, “That’s why I called us together. We’re here to decide just what it means to be the Jade Empire.”
Pen Sumi said, “So we’re here to nominate an Emperor or Empress?”
Pen Sumi was one of the Jade Warriors injured during the war in Palarma. He had suffered injuries to his spine during during a running battle in the capital city. Three vertebra were fused together. Fortunately, he could still walk. The problem was that he wasn’t agile enough for the battle field.
Pen Cordila said, “Well, I would nominate...”
Interrupting her, Pen Aleksy said, “She doesn’t want it. She said that she’d kill whoever nominated her for the job.”
“She’d do it, too,” Pen Cordila said with a hint of amusement in her voice.
“We all know what she wants and running the Jade Empire isn’t it,” Pen Aleksy said.
Pen Kami said, “I think we’re getting ahead of ourselves. What is the Jade Empire? If we are the Jade Empire, then I have to ask ... what are we?”
Pen Aleksy said, “That’s one of the questions we’re here to decide. Let’s face it, we’ve got some pretty tough questions to answer. What is the Jade Empire? Who are we with respect to the Jade Empire? Who is in charge of the Jade Empire?”
Pen Sumi said, “Right now the Jade Empire is the combined might of nine countries under the oversight of Pens from Jade Force.”
Pen Kami asked, “Does that make the overseers Lords of the Empire?”
“That’s as good of a title as any.”
“Jade Force has always been a meritocracy. Shouldn’t being a Lord be based on merit?”
“I’d say so.”
“What about those walking wounded who aren’t overseers? What are they?” Pen Flavia asked.
“They’d still be lords.”
Pen Flavia said, “So everyone who gets too shot up to fight becomes a lord? I don’t think so. There’s got to be more to it than that.”
“No there’s not. There’s more to running an empire than managing a couple countries.”
“So you are saying that everyone who gets too shot up to fight becomes a lord.”
Pen Aleksy said, “Why not? I mean, we can have different kinds of lords. We can have lords who are overseers, lords who serve on a council, lords who are retired, and an Emperor or Empress.”
“Who said anything about a council?” Pen Cordilia asked.
“I just did.”
“So what would we do with a council?”
Pen Aleksy said, “I’m the overseer of Misera and have been since we took over the country. That takes all of my time. Suddenly, we’re an empire. I don’t have time to set policy for the Empire. I’ve got a country to run. We need a council of some sort to deal with making policy. We need an Emperor or Empress to serve as the head of state.”
Pen Flavia didn’t like how he made reference to running a country. His job as overseer was to assure that the country was run according to its constitution, not to be the King. She wondered if he knew how he sounded. She thought not.
Pen Kami asked, “With everyone being a lord, how will we distinguish a councilor from an overseer.”
Pen Aleksy said, “The armor of a Jade Warrior is tan. Why can’t our overseers have red armor? Our councilors have black armor? Our retired warriors can wear gray armor. The Emperor or Empress can wear green armor.”
“Who outranks who?”
Pen Aleksy said, “Does a sword outrank a shield or a hearth or a cart or a pen? The answer is no. You know that. Why should we talk about rank when it comes to the Jade Empire?”
“That’s because Pens, Swords, Shields, Hearths, Carts, and Hammers all have different skills. The warrior with the appropriate skills is in charge. What you are talking about, being a lord, doesn’t require different skills.”
Pen Aleksy said, “Of course they do. I’ve had a lot of experience as overseer of Misera. I can tell you that there are very specific skills that a good overseer requires, knowledge in areas like economics, law, and politics. That’s the skill set of a Pen. I’ve had to learn a lot of that stuff on the fly. I’m not as good at law as Pen Hopo. To be quite honest, I’d turn over my position to someone who has a better understanding of economics than I possess. However, I have become an expert in politics.”
“I suppose that you’re right. We can still have those positions filled based on merit. What does that say for the councilors?”
Pen Aleksy said, “I’d say that councilors require different set of skills. We’re talking about coordination among nations here. Hearths, Carts, Shields, and Swords have the appropriate sets of skills. Let’s face it, the empire has to be able to take care of its people, manage the movement of goods and services, protect itself from enemies, and assert its power. Pens, well ... the empire has to establish treaties with other nations.”
“What about Hammers?”
“An empire needs individuals who are specialists in a variety of topics.”
Pen Aleksy said, “That’s right.”
“On one hand, you say that skills distinguish us. That overseers are overseers because of skill and councilors are councilors because of skill. Yet you are suggesting that Overseers are Red Lords and Councilors are Black Lords. Why make a distinction? We don’t make a distinction among the Cadres.”
“Within the Jade Force, such distinctions are unnecessary. When dealing with the rest of the world, the distinction is necessary.”
“So you’re saying that you’d be a Red Lord and I’d be a Black Lord until I actually become an overseer,” Pen Flavia said.
“We’re all qualified as Pens. Shouldn’t we all be Red Lords?” Pen Flavia said.
Pen Aleksy said, “I originally qualified as a Sword. I got hurt and re-qualified as a Pen. With time and training, I now qualify as a Sword again. Despite that, I remain a Pen. I think of myself as a Pen now, not as a Sword. I like being a Pen.
“Let’s be honest. You’re one of our lowest rated Pens. You undertook qualification as a Pen because you can’t qualify to be a Sword or a Shield at the moment and the idea of being a Hearth or Cart just doesn’t appeal to you. You aren’t odd enough to be Hammer.
“Personally, I think that you’d make a lousy overseer. You just don’t have the skills for the job. I know you agree with me since you turned down being the overseer of San Troph.”
She started to object, but he continued, “We all know that you still think of yourself as a Sword. It’s just that you’ve been injured to a degree that makes it impossible for you to serve as a Sword. You can’t run, you can’t parachute, and your survival skills barely qualify as master level. However, you still have an expert rating in strategy and tactics. You can still shoot and fight. You are still qualified as a Sword.
“I think your skill set makes you an appropriate person to help set policy on the projection of force within a council. You understand it and you will be good at it.”
Pen Flavia said, “You’re right about me thinking of myself as a Sword. I have the heart and soul of a Sword, but not the body of one.”
Pen Kami said, “I disagree. You have the heart and soul of a warrior. You have manifested that by being a Jade Warrior in the Sword Cadre. There is nothing that says you can’t manifest that spirit by being a Lord in the Black Cadre.”
Pen Sumi asked, “So what does all this Red and Black Lord stuff mean in terms of running an Empire? How would it all work?”
“That’s a good question. I don’t know, but I have some ideas.”
Pen Cordila said, “I’ve been thinking about what you’ve said. I kind of agree with you about the whole council and overseer stuff. Jade Force has had a problem with staffing. I know that all of the Jade Warriors who are too injured to fight, have been working here at the citadel. They’ve been dealing with some of the Empire’s issues, while those who are able to fight are out in the field waging a war.
“We’ve essentially been functioning as Black Lords. The overseers have been functioning as Red Lords. As much as I hate to admit it, our injuries have already separated us from the other Jade Warriors. All those who can fight are functioning as Jade Warriors.”
Pen Flavia considered what Pen Cordila had said. She had been contributing to the war effort. Her advice had been the advice of a Sword and not a Pen. There were a half dozen regions where fighting was taking place. There was the battle for Sadre. There was the ocean area where the fleet was doing its thing. There was the port the fleet was occupying. There was the main front engaging the coalition forces. There were the towns that were being kept under control. There were lots of battlefields, and the Jade Warriors closest to the fighting didn’t have the time to see the bigger picture. She’d been providing a lot of that.
She said, “You’re right. I don’t want to be an overseer. I’m not particularly happy about being a Pen. I am contributing to the war effort back here, and that contribution is more as a sword than as a pen. I’d be happier being a Black Lord, at least as you described what it would mean.”
“I’m concerned about how you talk about the Red Lords. I don’t quite like the idea of that,” Pen Flavia said.
The greatest threat to any organization is ‘empire’ building by people within it, no pun intended. It was a subtle process. A talented person, possessing a high degree charisma, gains a position and then starts attracting more talented people. The problem truly begins when those people who join the team are more committed to the person than the organization. The person at the top acquires political power just on the basis of the number of people who support him or her. As that old saying says: power corrupts. It doesn’t take long before the decision making process is set up to favor the ‘empire’, rather than the organization within which the ‘empire’ exists.
If the ‘emperor’ is a benevolent dictator, the organization doesn’t suffer too much other than a skilled or talented person whose opinion differs a bit from the dictator might get crushed and a great idea might get lost. It’s when the ‘emperor’ is a petty tyrant when the organization really suffers. The petty tyrant is sure to attempt to crush anyone who might threaten the tyrant’s empire.
Before long, an organization gets rife with small empires that war with each other. The decision making process becomes skewed. Rather than serving the purpose for which the organization exists, the organization becomes a parody of itself. In time, it self destructs, often in a very spectacular way.
Pen Flavia knew that. History was replete with examples where little dictators inside governments led a government to an ill considered war. Corruption thrives in a government filled with mini-bastions of power. Civil war and wars between nations are started because some petty bureaucrat, in reaching for power, is willing to see the world go up in flames.
“What’s there not to like about it?”
“It seems to me that it would be very easy for a Red Lord to become a potentate. It would be all too easy for an overseer to become more interested in the welfare of their country than in the needs of the Jade Empire.”
Pen Chu said, “She’s right. I’ve been making up policy for Ismal without really coordinating it with the other overseers. I could see how I could become more concerned about Ismal, than the Jade Empire.”
“I suppose. I guess Misera is different because it’s the first country to be a member of the Jade Empire.”
In almost a shout, Pen Flavia said, “That’s exactly what I’m talking about. You have been the overseer of Misera since the beginning. You are trying to make out like it is special somehow. Well, it isn’t. It may be the first country, but it isn’t the most important country.”
“I think you need to step down as overseer of Misera and take up a position as overseer of Ulamb once it is brought into the empire. You have the most experience and Ulamb is where the most demands are going to be.”
“I don’t think that is a good idea.”
“Which country requires the most experienced overseer, Misera or Ulamb?”
“Ulamb,” Pen Aleksy answered.
“Who is our most experienced overseer?” Pen Flavia asked.
“I am,” Pen Aleksy answered.
“Jade Warriors serve where their skills are most needed,” Pen Flavia said flatly as a challenge.
Thoughtfully, Pen Chu said, “She’s right.”
“I’ve got things going on in Misera. I can’t just walk away.”
Pen Flavia said, “That’s my point. Right now, you are more invested in running Misera, than you are in running an empire. You need to step out of your current position and regain your perspective.”
“I don’t know about that. I mean, there’s got to be continuity.”
“Of what? You’re an overseer, not a ruler,” Pen Chu said pointedly.
He too was becoming worried about Pen Aleksy’s attitude. Pen Flavia definitely had a point about Ulamb requiring an experienced overseer. Pen Aleksy even agreed with her on that, but still he was resisting. That was not good.