How my heart used to race
at the sound of a dial-up
The beige clack of keyboard.
An adolescent body perched
on a greasy dining room chair
The glow of a desktop screen,
resolution 800 x 600.
This is where I grew up,
in an invisible universe,
When I was captain of the elites I served the Emperor, who had a liking for me, albeit punishing. It was an inappropriate relationship, how he deigned to spend his time training me rather than any of his own men. I felt the direct consequences of his favoritism immediately. On the home planet of an empire whose dominant ideology uplifted warrior narratives and martial prowess, they found my cybernetics revolting. They called me toaster, which offended my pride for its unimaginitiveness––on Vejitasei they hadn’t used energy like a toaster since primitive civilizations past. Yet I toasted. I cheated, they said, my ability was not my own. Humans should not be so strong when they are disconnected to the true Flow of the universe in the first place––they were hateful that my teenaged build betrayed the ability within. The sheer power I housed, complicated, was obfuscated in my chemically fortified cells, my boosted nanostructures, my prime responsive skin, my entropy-faceted heart-power source.
They were forced on to their knees the day the Emperor announced he would be investing me from a humble bondsman in the Elites straight to the pinnacle of the Imperial Guard. The fanatically militant populace scoffed that I could even pronounce the word in our language––”imperial.” But I knew that day that I only need bow to the Lord himself, and anyone who dared take issue with that would find themself at the mercy of his chosen retainer, me. Me, the refuse of a failed madman’s attempts at retribution––a corporation man in the Earth collapse who couldn’t live unless he was maiming others. He took my twin and myself as adolescents and changed us eternally.
To me, it is no wonder that I sought out a place in the Vejitasei warrior hierarchy. It made so much sense, to be rewarded for survival rather than compliance.
I remain so removed from myself, yet.
A vacuum-frozen pion.
On Earth I had been made into a receptacle, then tortured for the purpose, which never came because my brother and I rejected it. Murder. Our maker. No masters, he smirked at me, severed head underfoot. We used to be things. The Emperor made sure I was a true warrior. By then, my brother had been exiled to the red mountains, because he couldn’t serve anyone. He was burnt out and traumatized and in need of care and love, and I somehow managed to go on, subsisting on the numbing body high of service and domination. Seventeen had liked chaos. I wanted structure. The Emperor gave me so much structure that there was no room for my brother. They hated each other. I wish . . . Seventeen was still with me. But the Emperor saw what he had done and was fast to provide me with subordinates, those bound to me by the honor of their word and the virtue of my position to the Lord himself.
I knew the Emperor’s name as no one else was allowed. He would find me after my vicious sessions getting the yet-offended Guard to respect my hand and say, come walk with me. He would usher me forth with a gesture, and under his attention, I went. The beauty of the empire was another thing entirely among his private gardens, where he did not wear his armor, where he would ask me how I was faring, only to chuckle and smile and admonish my responses as things children should quickly learn from. And every time I threatened tears or silence, he would take my gaze and I would know there was more that he had in store for me. I would think my suffering was but a treatment towards elevation.
The first time he touched me not in sparring was after I had humiliated an impetuous cousin of the lineage. It was under his total attention that I watched him remove his crest and gauntlets and felt myself incited by the thrill of power his focus gave me. The Lord himself told me he would make me his empress. I was terrified, yet I only wanted to feed my bushido, continue on towards the dizzying heights of my own capability, backed by an empire’s worth of resources. And I failed to recognize, as Seventeen had in bitter tears warned me, the coming destruction of my own self. We were no longer on Earth. The Empire could fold space, the Lord’s grandmother had been gifted the knowledge during her first rage, it was legend. I did not understand my appeal, as a petulant ingrate off the street to the young Emperor, whose cells drank from the flow of the universe itself. But now it is apparent, he was feeble minded from the responsibility of grandeur and I was a rare doll object he loved to soothe himself with.
He was the only survivor of a lineage massacre, a child prodigy who managed to bring glory back to an empire that should have lost its supremacy, as many of the sneering Elites had been quick to let me know. I didn’t know any of their traditions or their myths, simply that the Emperor wanted to elevate me. It was not until I underwent the grooming process to become empress that I began to acknowledge the depths of their violent history, warring age after warring age, hurtling towards exponential cosmic influence. They were the people of the stars, it was their purpose. On Earth I was the direct byproduct of a corporation war, and there had been no purpose in my thuggish existence. On Vejitasei, I was infused with meaning for simply continuing to survive. Yet I could not discern what any of it meant. I had been so bereft, for so long, for anyone to be proud of me.
The Emperor is gone now. And the empire, after his passing, became a death cult under my influence. I couldn’t stand it. I killed myself off, found a way into lower dimensions where I could live under different conditions––an escape tale for another time. But I am alive, bereft as ever, with only my bushido to keep me standing. And I’m sure you could believe a story like mine, if you could believe I have lived it.
first penned sept 13th 2013.
this also piece appears in BADMAN, a Dragon Ball fanzine.