Chapter 1 – The Rise of Ceorpia Totem, the Empire of Man

His father was a distinguished senator, his grandfather a revered general. Yet his own legend had already far outdone that of his ancestors.  His name was Roman Kahn.  Feared by his enemies, respected by his colleagues in the Grand Army and truly loved by the people; it was he who would lead the final military conquest on a long, hard-earned road to galactic superiority.  That conquest would be the planet of Kiralta, which was a distant, exotic planet.

To Roman, Kiralta was like a rare beast of the wild. Hunting as a boy, he’d always admired wildlife. Sometimes it felt a true shame to make the final kill.  But he was a conquerer. He was the greater beast. Man was the greatest beast that had ever lived. And in the vast, cold expanse of space, Man’s rule had gone uncontested for centuries.

No other nation stood for this truth, no nation embodied this sacred ideal more than Ceorpia Totem. It was only destiny then that it took the galaxy by force. Man must stand united, under one flag. On the final night of a splendid little war, he would see this destiny realized.

As expected, Kiralta’s army crumbled within mere hours. Roman had little sympathy, or even the slightest understanding for their resistance. He felt to his very core that they were resisting evolution, they were ignoring destiny. They would learn. He was confident that in time they would understand.

After the victory, Roman and the fleet returned to Ceorpia Totem, to a great parade and ceremony. Roman would be crowned Supreme Chief of the Empire. King. The tyrannical sun cast an orange glow over the city as the military procession entered the golden gates of the capital building. Roman ascended the marble steps of the grand edifice where the twelve senators, the Grand Tribunal, stood to meet him.

Down toward the foot of the steps remained Roman’s three lieutenants, who with their commander formed the legendary Circle of Kahn.

The name ‘Kahn’ referred to rank and was a strict and respected observation of the bond between a Ceorpian general and his lieutenants. The name was earned not inherited.

The first of the three lieutenants was also the youngest. His face was very thin and his skin was pale. His silky hair ran long and matted against his forehead. His expertise was in science and engineering but he was adept in the field of stealth, and particularly with the knife that he kept hidden at his side. He took pride in his keen intellect.  And while all Ceorpian men were soldiers, he viewed himself as an assassin. Furthermore, he privately rejected the name of Kahn. He preferred his own name. It was simple and quick. Unassuming. His name was Roy.

Hector Kahn towered over the others, standing at a gargantuan eight feet tall. He had a massive scar across his face and his head was shaved. When Hector spoke it was in a deep growl, and he always had a way of making his presence known with his loud, beast-like personality. His ears were pierced with the carved bones of fallen adversaries that he’d deemed worthy. He was armed with a sword that he seldom cleaned, often stained with spots of faint crimson. Hector stood rooted to the ground with his muscular arms crossed over his bare, battle-scarred chest, as he basked in the evening’s celebration. An animal not to be crossed.

Finally there was the last lieutenant, who stood farther away than the other two that night. He was dressed in black and his face could not be seen inside the hood of his cloak, but everyone knew who he was. Born within a week of eachother, he and Roman were thought to be brothers as boys, two great princes of a golden generation. Roman’s star would of rise highest and this man understood that. He himself had little taste for politics and he knew that Roman had the charisma and cunning of a strong politician. His own destiny lie elsewhere. This man’s name was Damien. The silent knight of the Grand Army.

With his lieutenants looking on, Roman reached out his arms in praise to the thousands of citizens waiting to hear him speak.

“My friends, my countrymen. Tonight we are all kings.”

The crowd roared. The capital thundered in furious waves of applause.

“History will tell the tale of a people born from a barren ground, a people who stared up to an unforgiving sun, who looked upon their world and who cried out ‘From this fire, we will rise. From this desert we will grow fertile valleys. From the darkness we will emerge and create a great republic. And with our own hands we can forge an empire.”

Another roar of cheers and applause shook the pillars of the capital building.

“My name may very well be mentioned in the years to come. But whatever place I hold in those pages of our history, know that I share it with you. This is not my legacy, no. This is our legacy. This is our victory.

“When we emerged from the fire, as savage men in scattered tribes across a rocky wasteland, did we lie back contently and waste away with it? Or did we unite, and grow, and build upon this rock a great, gleaming city?”

The mobs echoed their affirmation for the latter.

“And when we reached that point, did we stop there? Or did we explore further, to other neighboring systems to show them what we could accomplish together? What we could become together?

“We taught them not to look to the stars for answers, but to ourselves, as men. It is we, mankind, who possess the greatest power that ever was and ever will be. We spread the word, like a clarion call across the stars, ‘From our own hearts and minds, we can create our OWN paradise. And with our own hands, we WILL forge an empire.'”

Again, the crowds thundered from below.

“Now, you know just as well as I, that it could not have come without sacrifice, that many have fallen for a vision to be realized. First, there were those who feared the weight of their very own potential, who feared progress. Evolution. They stood in our way, yes, but ultimately they stood in their own way. Some might say that we conquered them. I choose to think that we educated them. Showed them. Well tonight, we honor them.”

The mob had grown quiet, as he expected. By this point in his career, Roman was a master at pulling the strings of a crowd’s emotions. Slowly he continued.

“Furthermore, we honor those who fell believing in our victory, who fell for our prosperity. Man’s prosperity. It is they to whom we pay special tribute tonight, when I proudly declare, ‘MY BROTHERS, WE FORGED OUR EMPIRE.”

The crowds roared as Roman searched among the masses, letting them take the moment to quiet again and hang onto his final words. He breathed deeply and quietly. The air was still. He looked into the setting sun. It warmed his face as it fell into the horizon.

“Finally, great people, I am led to a conclusion. And it is on this word, empire. We began believing in Man’s right to rule the universe. We expanded and fought believing in that potential and anyone who didn’t see it, who didn’t act on that potential, we…well, we taught them otherwise. With that in mind, I choose to believe that we are no longer just the Empire of Ceorpia Totem. We are, tonight, an Empire of Man, The Empire of Man. For tonight, across the galaxy, all of Mankind stands united.

“You may call me King. But tonight I repeat to you my brothers, we are all kings. The future awaits us. Take it. It’s yours!

As the people cheered, Roy leaned against the pillar and smiled as he crossed his arms. Hector joined in the applause and looked over the heads in the crowd, as if looking for any fool not celebrating. Damien believed in Roman, his great general, his king, his friend. And he believed in his people.

The sun had set, though it was indeed the rise of a new order, one that would change the course of human history.

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