The death of Liberty
"Our power comes from their suffering. When they become satisfied and relaxed we grow weak." Master Ahriman
Ahriman had been the first commander of the mission. With the number of time flips and turns, History had become so interwoven with the current reality of the now nobody knew exactly how long ago that was.
Ahriman had been here forever. His attitudes about suffering and destruction didn’t apply to his crew. They had every opportunity. There were no vices forbidden. They were entertaining with read-only access to practically every possible event and time. The world becomes a Star Trek holosuite wherever their whims and fancies take them. The big difference being no fiction or artistic representation was needed. History was there and available in a constant stream. Some found it too real. Historical narration glosses over the tremendous stink of history. Hot summer days wandering through yesterday's battlefield can overpower anyone. They were experiencing real antiquity, including all the senses. Since you were, for a time, actually experiencing whatever hyper polygonal slice of history your capsule had dropped you at. They were observing, enjoying being a shadow. Perhaps a mere whisper in the consciousness of the more observant. You may be recognized by a change in temperature the moment the capsule discharges you into a dark, dank middle age tavern. Crossing of hearts, prayers, and followed by a quick left and right look. To ensure the historical figure didn't look foolish. These were the usual actions and all that were recognized of the out-of-phase visitor. That was rare. The fraternity of misguided souls that manned Ahriman's dimension was base. They might be visiting the Grotto at the Playboy Mansion. Bob Guccione's Penthouse is just a moment away. Getting their freak off at San Francisco's Power Exchange was the typical experience sought after by Ahriman's crew. No wickedness was forbidden. As long as they accomplished Ahriman's evil missions, the crew were free to explore without inhibition.
Conveniently the capsules were equipped with delousing equipment. Mandatory cleansing was a requirement to reenter Ahrimans's realm among the netherworlds. Every trace of waste was sucked away into the nothingness, leaving a simple, fresh, and clean agent with nothing left of the experience except the memory. At times the agents wished for a memory disinfectant. Some moments could not be forgotten. Unpleasant memories never to be unexperienced. At times agents would be overwhelmed. They could no longer carry on with duties as an agent of Ahriman if this happened during a pleasure trip. Ahriman was unwilling to accept that agent back into the fold of the fraternity. It was common for him to use this broken agent as an example, a reminder that agents were responsible for their mental hygiene.
Examples publicly crucified among the compadres of Spartacus. They were left to scream and die, rotting along the Appian Way. One more slave crucified would not be noticed, and the punishment was appropriate in Ahriman's mind. He had lifted these agents out of their hell. They were merely returned to the dust from which they came. This moment among the multitude of times Ahriman had experienced, was his favorite. The sweet surrender of lives, was music to his twisted mind. This was the death of Liberty on a grand scale. Those Romans knew how to discipline their subjected people properly. They knew there would always be slaves. They were quickly replaced. It was a necessary part of the economy of ancient Rome to ensure the wealth of the Empire. There were always eager legions prepared to wage war for the glory of Rome.
Cosmically speaking, the punished agent's atoms, molecules, and soul would not even be considered out of place. Nothing was lost of them. It was all conserved. They were spinning around the earth with everyone else's atomic dust. The time between now and then was a moment. In the blink of an eye to the Universal Consciousness. Ahriman was so keenly aware of this presence. That Consciousness often sends him visions of Ahriman's inevitable future.
For centuries his body had deteriorated. It was to the point of resembling a gelatinous beachball with a head perched on top. Ahriman's bobbling and wobbling talking head and body sat on top of a sedan chair.
The eight Nubian bearers matched the chair. Their glistening, oiled black skin contrasted nicely with their thick golden collars. Bulging muscles on their arms, puffed by armbands at the ligaments connecting their biceps, made these strong men appear even more potent. Words never escaped their de-tongued mouths. Yes, you could tell they were proud men by the smiles fixed on their faces. They didn't care for the members of the crew. When one of them noticed another crew member staring at them, they returned a toothy glare. The rumor among the agents was these Nubian bearers were cannibals. Supposing you were the recipient of one of their glares. You might imagine this was true.
These men had once belonged to Cleopatra, and Ahriman had recovered them after her untimely asp bites. They had not belonged to the Queen but were her willing servants. They swore oaths on their lives to protect her.
They would take their secrets to the afterlife, as not one of them seemed the least little bit interested in any communication with the agents of Ahriman.
They might point at something and expect delivery of choice dishes in the galley. Beyond a simple pointing gesture, these strong men never mingled with the crew. They kept to themselves, as silent as black stones.
The Queen was dead. Cleopatra lay in her vomit. Her body would remain untouched until the Romans arrived and killed her guards. They had taken a position to defend her body to the end. The men loved their Queen and had taken spiritually sacred oaths to defend her. Even in the afterlife, they would guard this earth-bound Isis.
On this day, they had stood guard. Their Queen had decided that her death was inevitable, rather than spending the rest of her days in a filthy prison rotting and finally seeing the light of day on the date of the Triumph. On that day, she was certain to be paraded through the slimy streets of Rome and finally executed by her former lover. What a disgusting end for the woman. She would not allow it. She would take her life on her own terms. Her Nubians would join her in the afterlife. She would become Isis again.
The guard helped their Queen with the weight of the snakes. She held them by their necks, gently kissing each inglorious creature that would take her life. Their ingloriousness turned to glory. Indeed, it was glory. They were to be remembered. Famous bites that carried a different future to the future.
The guard captain spoke. "We will join our Queen. Each of you has sworn not only your lives but your souls. The Romans will not let even one of us live. If we are to be captured, then we will live for a time. Our destiny will be a Roman triumph. You do not want to be part of that spectacle. The Queen and her Marcus Antonius will not be there. They have already joined each other in Hades. We, the guards of Cleopatra, have not sworn our lives to be entertainment. Waiting for that day is not worth the few more moments among the living. Those are not days to look forward to.
Today! We join Cleopatra. We will avenge her death. Defend her body to the man. We will meet again, my friends."
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The Romans could be heard now. Their sandaled feet in step. Their gladii bouncing on tanned thighs There were words from the centurion yelling. "Where is she? Where is Cleopatra?"
Although educated in all aspects of ceremony and the afterlife, the priests were not known for their courage.
"There, Centurion! She hides there." Pointing down the dark hallway towards the ceremonial room that held Cleopatra's lifeless body.
"At least the priest did not warn them of the presence of her guards."
Gunbir mumbled to himself.
Many Romans would perish to her men before they joined their Queen. Their trap was prepared.
Captain Gunbir spoke out quietly. "My brothers, don't let even one Roman scum live. When they enter, cut them down."
Their weapons were beautiful. They were shining with jewels shimmering in lamplight. These weapons had never seen war. These were the ceremonial weapons of Cleopatra's guards. Her beautiful men were always there to defend her. Today, these weapons would taste the blood of the enemy. They would prove their metal in the flesh of Roman men.
They stood, their backs facing Cleopatra as the Romans entered the chamber. Calm smiles, bulging muscles with the beautiful weapons held en garde. They were ready to strike dead their enemies as they entered the room. None of them believed they could defeat an entire Roman century, but they knew. They would not fall before they had taken some, a few, but likely many with them. They were, of course, the Queen's own and, best of all her Army.
The ruby red light surprised them. No, it scared them. The fearless warriors of the Queen were terrified as the red hole to what must be Hades appeared. The Queen's guards are not easily frightened, but these men are terrified. Lifted away in a light, looking down, they saw the bewildered Romans who, moments ago, would certainly have been party to killing or capturing them.