|To Save the World
Author: ApocalypticDin PM
Many years down the line a man rose above all others with the intent of saving the world from disaster. They dubbed him the "Peacelord", and he sought to build a world worth being proud of. Then came the "Warlord", who scoffed at perfection and stood in the way of his plans. War looms on the horizon between those pursuing paradise on Earth, and those who simply wish for liberty.Rated: Fiction T - English - Sci-Fi/Fantasy - Chapters: 6 - Words: 16,539 - Reviews: 6 - Follows: 1 - Updated: 08-27-12 - Published: 07-26-12 - id: 3045191
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
A/N: This initial chapter seeks to set the primary factions of this story's setting. My plan is not to have an continual narrative between chapters, but for each one to be a separate vignette within the same "world". There is, of course, room for wandering on this concept and we'll see how long I'll keep it up. This intro pretty shamelessly cribs some theatrical and philosophical elements from my previous story "We Will Have Peace", but that ended much more conclusively and I wanted something similar I can play around with more. Thanks for at least finding the summary interesting enough to give the story a click, and I assure you should you not find the contents to your liking I shall harbor no ill-will against you, beyond cursing your wretched existence every waking moment for the rest of my conscious life. Here we go...
Tale 1: Trust Not In Princes
From the top of the world, or what seemed like it in the rather confined walls of the lonely skyscraper he rarely ventured from, the Peacelord gazed up into the nuclear radiance of the sun. He knew it was not good to do so, and at first his eyes had stung and watered and begged for diversion, but now they settled into a kind of comfortable gaze as though they had developed a callus in much the same way well-worked fingers might. As he watched he pondered why that star even bothered to rise over this forsaken land anymore. He had enough trouble rousing himself from bed in the morning, and his vision was comparatively constrained by locality. The sun, however, had to haul its way across the sky each and every day, illuminating the entire travesty below for its no doubt weary perception. It must have had an extraordinary amount of restraint to not simply do away with the whole rotten planet.
From the days of his youth the Peacelord dreamed of giving that sun a grand spectacle to behold, for it to rise on one morning and find all the pain and suffering expunged from the world. His whole life, in his eyes, was lived for the single purpose of making this dream a reality, in the same manner that a child may strive to please his father. He didn't truly expect the sun to acknowledge his accomplishments, of course, but it provided him motivation, serving as a sort of cosmic overseer who kept him forever diligent.
At first it had seemed he was making marvelous progress. He reached out to the world around him, embracing it and guiding it to a better future. The world needed saving, the world wanted saving, and all it had been missing was someone to step up and do the act. That was his role, and he filled it willingly and admirably. He knew that if he just kept the spirit of unity, collected every soul under the umbrella of social betterment, then there was nothing that could not be built, no peak that could not be climbed, and no evil that could not be overcome. He wasn't a leader so much as he was the glue of society, preventing it from fracturing into individual, selfish fragments.
But fracture it did. From the mass broke off a man, a man who they began to call the "Warlord". Slowly the Warlord began to chip off more fragments, raising an army that now threatened everything that the Peacelord had so lovingly manufactured, driving him into the protective confines of his tower, and he couldn't understand why. Did not the people prefer peace to war? Love to hate? Progress to stagnation? He felt as though he had been kicked in the gut. His heart ached, and his nights were sleepless as he continually tried to make sense of his opposition. The only justification he could attribute to their actions was that they were simply rotten men more concerned with their own wealth than the good of the whole.
He wouldn't believe that. He couldn't believe that. All that he strived for was based on the ideal that humanity was not necessarily perfectible, but capable of reason and compassion. But here were these rebels who seemed to defy all that- unreasonable and uncompassionate, primitive and incapable of the smallest shred of empathy. If that were the case, if men could still be corrupted in the face of enlightenment, there was truly no hope that he could ever realize his vision. That was not acceptable.
"Just as I suspected, it appears you think far too much," came a gruff voice from behind him.
The Peacelord swung around. His eyes, torn from the sun, pulsed and throbbed as they attempted to readjust. For now the man appeared only as a silhouette before him- a rather large one although not frighteningly so. "Too much?" the Peacelord asked, finding the concept laughable. "One cannot think to much."
"Oh but indeed you can." The man behind the voice slowly came into clarity. As the face slowly emerged from the darkness of the Peacelord's vision, recognition dawned upon him. He had seen it many times on the documents of his police force. Craggy more by wear than age, with a single small scar just to the left of his chin. It was the Warlord. The other man continued his speech. "Most things don't need that much thought. If you think too much, your feelings start to guide your thoughts, rather than the other- more proper- way."
"How did you get up here?" the Peacelord asked, refusing to step back or show fear with this traitor in his midst.
"You are not as surrounded by friends as you would like to believe," the Warlord answered.
Slowly shaking his head, the Peacelord shambled on his tired knees towards a bench overlooking the tremendous view of the city and countryside before them. Carefully sitting down, he motioned towards the Warlord. "Come, join me," he breathed wearily. "Perhaps words may accomplish something which legislation cannot."
"I have my doubts regarding that contention," his foe replied, but nevertheless took a seat next to him, and the two sat there beside each other, showing not the slightest hint of the antipathy between them.
They admired the view in silence briefly, but eventually the Peacelord felt that the time for diplomacy had come, and smacked his lips once before asking a question that had long haunted his mind. "My story has been much told," he began. "Naturally the details have become somewhat embellished, as is true of all leaders. Nevertheless the basics remain as true as they were the day which each occurred in turn. Contrastingly, your background has long eluded me, and as far as our intelligence is concerned you simply materialized into existence some years ago. So I must ask you, sir who they call 'the Warlord'… who are you?"
"I was on the radio," the Warlord quickly answered, voice slightly wispy as he recalled a less eventful time, "back when anyone could be on it. I had my following, a fair enough one. People seemed to like what I had to say. Unfortunately those people did not include the ones you set to watch over the airwaves. One day my broadcast cut out, and the next thing I know I've got some stuffy looking bureaucrats standing outside my office, accusing me of all sorts of things. 'Misinformation', they said. 'Rhetoric with intent to incite', they said. 'Hate speech', even! Well, I did what any self-respecting broadcaster would do- I spat on their shoes and slammed the door in their faces. Bad choice. Faster than you can say 'signing off' the door's wide open and I wake up the next morning in the gutter with the door to my studio welded shut. Sound familiar?"
"Not particularly," the Peacelord answered, waving his hand dismissively. "If it does it is only because I've had so many such places shut down they all kind of become nothing more than a blur."
A small twitch of disgust betrayed the Warlord's calm face, but it disappeared quickly and he continued. "Anyway, my microphone was gone but my voice was not, and people still liked what I had to say. Pretty soon they're calling me the 'Warlord' and I find myself the figurehead of a rebellion. I assure you, I am just as surprised by these developments as you are. But there are a lot of cracks in the foundation of this empire you have built, Peacelord, and I must break my humbleness for a moment to gloat that I seem to have a rather uncanny ability to dig into them just right."
"So you continued to lie."
"Everybody lies, lord. There is no one in this world of our worthy of complete trust. My success I suspect was due to the fact that never have I asked for anyone to trust me, I have merely asked for them not to trust you."
The Peacelord sighed. He scratched his chin absentmindedly while his other hand tapped non-rhythmically on his thigh. "And why do I not deserve their trust? Have I not elevated them from the squalor they once lived in? Have I not worked to free them from the worries of health and money? You speak as though 'trust' were a repulsive concept, unworthy of consideration. Why is it so vile to you? I like trust very much. Should not students trust in their teachers? Should not soldiers trust in their generals? If not for trust, how do these things function? How does society function?"
"Society functions because men are well aware of their own needs and desires, and strive to attain them. When a student listens to a teacher it is because he desires to learn, not because he desires to be taught. When a soldier follows his general's commands it is because he seeks victory, not because he desires to be commanded. Men will work together for common goals; it is in our nature. But we are also beings of many uncommon goals, and you ask them to trust you in working towards a vision that may not be their own. That does not unite society but divides. I have my followers, yes. They do not, however, follow me because they trust me. Rather it is because their goal is the same as my own- and that is to put an end to this little experiment of yours."
The Peacelord shook his head quickly, struck by the Warlord's last words. "Experiment?" he huffed, the hand tapping his leg increasing in speed and tenacity. "Is that all that you see this as? An 'experiment'?" He stood up quicker than he had in some time, sweeping his arms grandiosely over the scene in front of them. "How can you call this an 'experiment'? Speaking as though this were some mere test, the curious research of some un-ambitious laboratory stooge peering into a microscope... I'll not stand for it! This is no 'experiment'; this is creation! This is the making of a great society, the birth of a world ruled not by greed and brutality but by virtue and equality! It is not a means, but an ends- and that ends is an existence in which mankind is enlightened beyond its former predatory phase and anointed into a oneness of soul and flesh, united under only the banner of the common good! This is salvation."
"The world does not need saving, Peacelord."
"Bah! Spoken like a true fortunate son. Go to the gutters! Go to the sick and the poor! Go to the fresh battlefield where the blood of dying men taints the soil in fruitless crimson! Step into the undertaker's cellar and lay eyes upon the mothers and children who've had their lives vacated by pointless crime! Go up to the hungry man picking trash from the garbage bins just to ease the pain of his bowels! Go up to each of these people in turn and tell them with as straight a face as you display to me that this world does not need saving. I can only hope that their tears will awaken some semblance of compassion within you."
The Warlord's eyes did not waiver. They remained cool and still, gazing up at the Peacelord with an odd mixture of pity and understanding. He then stood as well, turning his eyes toward the landscape before them. "I have learned to accept that this world in which we live is an imperfect one," he said slowly, weighing each word carefully as if trying to distill his entire philosophy into a single statement. "There are many ends which one may see as justification for any means. But we must not let these things delude us into trying to build a heaven on this Earth. It cannot be done, and no matter how much trust we may put into idealistic princes to bring it about we will be no closer to it. All that we will have done is cut away our individuality and sold it to the misguided fantasy of the 'common good'. I have no intention of doing so, and I swear that I will spend every breath that my body may have left in it fighting doggedly for as thoroughly imperfect a world as can be had."
The Peacelord's stood very still and gaunt, and he looked very much like an exhausted old man crumbling beneath the weight of his own vision. His eyes scanned back and forth over the city beneath him; a city that had once been so hopeless but now seemed to crackle with the energy of progress. His head rose then, and he closed his eyes and leaned it back, basking in the warm embrace of the sun above. Once more he looked like the young leader who so anxiously pushed his world towards a better tomorrow.
"I see now," he began, a smile creeping onto his cheeks, "that there truly is no convincing you. I am at peace with this fact. I am also confident that enough of my people have seen the light of my actions that they will reject you in due time, and you will be cast to the fringes of society where you can do no harm." His eyes remained closed, enjoying the warm light on his face and the new confidence flowing through his veins. "I suspect that your reasons for coming here were something more devious than the chat which we just shared. If your plan is to kill me, you may go ahead and do so. I assure you, the feeble body of mind hasn't the means to resist."
There was silence. The Peacelord's body remained loose, though his mind prepared for the blade, the bullet, or the push off the ledge that was to come. He accepted his fate.
The Warlord, however, seemed to have no such plans. "I'm not going to kill you. Your greatest desire is to paint me as the villain, and I will not comply with these machinations. I can see it on your face you have no desire to see me dead. You want me gone, unwanted, but not dead. But that will change. Pretty soon you will discover that the only way to stop me is to kill me, and the only way to stop my followers is to kill them, or your 'enlightened' empire will come crashing to the ground. When that day comes- and it will come- I assure you I'll have no qualms about ridding the Earth of your messiah complex. But for today I'll leave you alive. Enjoy your evening."
Footsteps faded into the distance, a door opened and closed, and the Warlord was gone. The Peacelord took a deep breath and opened his eyes, which stung harshly as he found himself staring once more directly into the sun. His smile grew wider.
"Thank you my old friend," he whispered into the cool breeze. "I promise you," he threw his hands in the air and let loose with a shout that should not have been capable of his tired windpipes, "I PROMISE YOU I'LL MAKE A WORLD WORTH RISING OVER!"
End Tale 1