The Slacker Rebellion
Summary: Ensign Edron is an unwilling conscript in an evil empire. He rebels in his own way, by doing his job incompetently. It leads to unexpected places.
I never wanted to join the Intergalactic Imperium, but I was press-ganged while caught napping. I could've had a nice, safe job at the moisture depository on my backwater homeworld of Tyros, but the Imperium had other plans. Now, I'm sitting in front of a console in the Intelligence Analysis wing, trying to find signs of Insurgent ships in probe data.
It's about as exciting as watching polymer sealant dry, but it was the perfect job. All I had to do was sit there and push buttons at random, while I zoned out. The dozen other analysts in the room sat with tensed muscles and beads of sweat. From what I understood, the job had a high turnover rate. I didn't know why the hell they forced a slacker like me to be an intelligence analyst, so I resisted the best way I could: By not giving a crap.
The Intergalactic Imperium, for all its propaganda, is far more incompetent than I am. Our Doomtrooper Legions can't even hit an Insurgent at point blank range, even with fully automatic energy blasters. Our officers built big, clunky ships that can't matching the fast, evasive Insurgent craft that regularly destroyed them from safe distances. Our secret police, the Imperial Inquisition, couldn't even stop the Insurgents from getting ahold of sensitive data.
I heard a colleague mutter that it used to be better, back when the Imperium conquered much of known space. But in victory, they grew overextended, indolent, and lazy. The Imperator appointed cronies for loyalty instead of competence, filling the gaps with conscripts. Into that void, muster brigades and press-gangs found lay-abouts like myself, and forced us into jobs we'd be ill-qualified for. No wonder the Doomtrooper grunts had such low morale. All I had to do was not piss off anyone who mattered, and I'd be set.
An Inquisitor visited our office one day, and everyone else was crapping themselves. I was more oblivious and less afraid, so I just focused on my monitor. He was dressed in his black uniform, some snappy officer with a shit-eating grin.
"Ensign Edron," he said, addressing me in a tone that penetrated my reverie like an assassin's blade. "Come with me."
I would have gulped, had I realized how deep I'd be in. Those an Inquisitor wanted to visit were never seen again. He took me into a dark, soundproofed room, and my sense of apprehension rose. The officer's predatory grin vanished, turning into a predatory smile.
"Congratulations, Ensign," he said. "You're the most accurate analyst in your unit. We're promoting you."
That was how I got a new job, located in an Inquisition base. Many of those taken by the Inquisition, as I realized, were as lazy as I am. The intelligence agencies had similarly been affected by institutional lethargy, so they picked those above average. I presumed my random guessing was far more efficient than my former comrades' fearful analysis. They gave the Inquisition what they thought they wanted to hear, while my random guesses were far closer to the reality of what was happening. I wasn't sure whether to laugh or cry.
I made no effort to improve my skills, save memorizing a few buzzwords, slogans, and canned phrases for when the brass paid a visit. I would have spent the rest of the war like that, had the Insurgency not decisively struck the Imperator during a fleet review. They began to hunt down the remnants of the former regime, which included myself.
Unbeknownst to myself, I'd gained a sinister reputation among the Insurgency, as a deadly Imperium spymaster. Apparently, I was more accurate than the rest of the Inquisition combined. I didn't bother resisting when they sent a commando team to capture me, since I was asleep at my console. They thought I was so deep into cover as a slacker, I was truly a more terrifying foe.
I got reassigned to a small resort turned prison, somewhere back on the outer territories. The other Imperials backed away when they heard who I was, looking at me with a blend of fear and reverence. And so I spent the rest of the decade, slacking off while everyone else thought I was a super-spy and secret agent. I've come to realize that failing upwards is more common than I was raised to think. I only wished I'd known it sooner.