by CJ Reddick
Roman legionaries on their way to conquer.
| I tipped back my head and gazed at the stars. As I stared in awe at them, I heard the clanking of armor, indicating the approach of another legionary. “The daughters of Astraeus are beautiful tonight, aren’t they?”
I turned around quickly as I recognized the voice. “Yes, my liege,” I said, kneeling in front of the captain of the Third Cohort of the Twenty-Seventh Legion.
The captain smiled and laughed. “Cyprian, haven’t I told you? I wish to be on first name basis with my second-in-command.”
He reached a hand down and pulled me to my feet. “Ah, yes, Renatus,” the name still sounded awkward. After five years of referring to this man as “my liege” or “captain”, it was foreign to me to call him by his given name.
Renatus laughed again. “My boy, you’ll need a more confident tone than that if you wish to be Captain someday.”
I nodded, and tried to add a flavoring of confidence to my tone “Yes, sir.”
Renatus smiled and clapped me on the back. “Good, now, have the scouts we sent out returned yet? It has been almost a week.”
I nodded. “Yes, Renatus. I received a message not one hour ago that they had returned. They are waiting for you to arrive so they may officially recount their tales.”
Renatus nodded. “And may I assume they are in the center of the base?”
I nodded. “You may.”
“Good!’ Renatus exclaimed. “Let’s go meet them.”
“Yes, sir.” We turned and marched off, side by side. “Oh, and Cyprian,” Renatus said.
“Why are you wearing your helmet? We are not in battle.”
I blushed. “I do not know, Sir.” I quickly pulled it off of my head.
“Oh, and Cyprian,” Renatus continued.
“Why aren’t you wearing your helmet?”
Renatus then burst out laughing again, as a sheepish expression covered my face. He doubled over, and caught his breath. “Oh, I’m sorry, Cyprian! That was just too good to pass up!”
I marched forward, looking straight ahead. “That is fine, Sir.”
Renatus seemed too friendly to be a captain. He seemed to enjoy laughter, even laughing on the field of battle. I wasn’t even really sure how he became a captain. This was the Roman Empire, after all. We weren’t exactly known for our sense of humor.
However, I considered myself lucky to have a good-humored captain. At least he wasn’t the opposite. Some captains were ridiculously cruel to their legionaries. As far as captains go, he was probably the most likeable Rome had to offer.
After making our way to the center of the base, Renatus and I came across a huddled crowd of legionaries. Renatus looked at me and raised his eyebrows. I stepped forward.
“Attention!” I shouted.
The legionaries looked up and quickly formed lines. I walked up and down the lines slowly, examining each legionary. I knew them each by name.
“Tertius, your battle tunic is too long! Do you dare go out on the fields of battle dressed as a woman?”
Tertius bowed his head. “No, sir.”
“Take it to the tailor and have it cut to the appropriate length. Is this a new tunic? We have been away from home for six months now.”
“Yes, sir, it is new. My wife made it and sent it for me. She always thinks I am bigger than I am.”
I suppressed a chuckle. Poor Tertius didn’t know I was just making fun of him. One of the perks of being second-in-command of the cohort, I supposed. “Well, since your wife is good enough to send you a tunic, you do her the honor of wearing it, exactly as she created it. You don’t need to take it to the tailor.”
Tertius bowed. “Yes, sir.”
I took a step back from the group. Speaking of Tertius’s wife now had me thinking of my own betrothed, Perpetua, waiting in far-off Rome. As soon as this campaign was over, I had vowed to return and marry her.
“Good, men, at ease! Now, which two of you were the scouts that visited the enemy territory?”
Two men in the front stepped forward. “Ah, yes, the rest of you are dismissed. You two stay.”
The men dispersed quickly, going about their business, jostling Tertius and giving him a hard time. Renatus and I approached the two scouts. Each kneeled. “My lieges,” they said in unison.
“Rise,” Renatus said.
The two men complied. Renatus continued speaking. “Now, Cyprian here is good enough to know your names, but I do not know them. What are they?”
“I am Thiago, and this is Arian,” the first man spoke.
“Ah, yes. Brothers, no? Well, Thiago, please tell me what you thought of the barbaric country.”
Thiago glanced at his brother. “We agree that it will be an easily defeated land. The peoples are divided amongst themselves into different tribes. They war over petty things quite frequently, such as which gods to follow, or even who should lead a tribe.”
Arian spoke up. “Yes, they are barbaric in every sense of the word. Almost no organized government, a weak military, and, worst of all, they are very open with all information. Thiago and I were able to glean all this information simply by asking ordinary people.”
“And did anyone suspect you?”
“No,” Thiago responded. “The garments you gave us allowed us to blend in quite well.”
Renatus nodded. “That will be all, thank you.”
The two legionaries bowed and left. Renatus turned to me.
“What do you think, Cyprian? Should we attack?”
“It is what we came here to do,” I replied, thinking of the long months away from Perpetua.
“So your opinion is we conquer these people quickly and return home? Would you attack tonight, if you could?”
I thought a moment. “If our spies are accurate, and we have permission of the Commander of the Legion, yes. But, last I heard, the Commander was at the base of the Fifth Cohort.”
“Ah, yes,” Renatus smiled. “But I have been keeping a secret from you. The Commander came in last night. He is taking refuge in the shrine of Mars for now, praying for our success. All the other Cohorts agree we should attack. He is merely waiting for our approval.”
I was shocked. Usually wherever the Commander went, there was a large entourage and people knew he was coming from ten miles away. But he was here, in the shrine of Mars, no less?
“If you believe we should strike now, I shall go get his approval.”
I nodded, speechless. Renatus smiled and nodded. “Ready the troops, I will go inform the Commander of our decision.”
Renatus turned and walked away. I was still stunned. Within a few minutes, Renatus returned, and I was still standing there.
“Cyprian, move! We have the approval of the Commander now!”
“I can’t believe… I just… I just declared war.”
Renatus frowned. “We would’ve done it anyway. Now, Soldier, go ready the troops. We are beginning our descent.”
I shook my head to cast out any confusion. I quickly turned and took a few steps into the command center. The dashboard blinked before me, and several Romans sat at their desks, typing on computers, programming our descent. I made my way over to the radio.
“This is Third Cohort. We are clear to attack. Begin your descent.”
The radio burst to life with responding calls from the other four cohorts. “Roger that,” was repeated four times. I looked over the dashboard at the stars and the approaching planet. I pressed the intercom button. “Attention all legionaries! Prepare to attack!”
I let the button go and heard the sounds of clanking armor fill the halls of the ship. I sighed and put my helmet back on, thinking of my Perpetua. “To war we go, for the glory of the Planet Rome.”
Jason tossed the ball to his sister. “When will Mom and Dad get home?” he asked.
His sister tossed it back. “I don’t know. Until then, you’re in ch…. AHHHH”
His sister screamed at something behind him. Jason spun around. He gasped and took a step back. A giant spaceship floated over the rest of the town! He ran to his sister and wrapped her in a big hug, shielding her eyes.
The spaceship came down with force, crushing half of the town. It came within ten feet of Jason. As Jason watched, shivering, the hatch opened downward.
“Just like in the movies…” he muttered.
Sure enough, a bright light shone from behind the door. He heard the sound of marching footsteps. Jason backed away slowly, his sister in his arms. However, when the aliens finally came into view, he was shocked.
“Are those… Romans?”