After a few hours, he emerged from his room and resumed his visit with Elam like nothing had happened. When Tarra offered to take her brother shopping, he did not protest after Elam ran around the room excited to visit the large department store with his uncle. Rikishi tolerated Tarra’s mothering as they tried on new clothes, far more than he needed for one speech night. He ignored the voices of the dead, Order and Republic, and focused on the task at hand. He would speak at Elam’s school about the Republic and then be on his way home. Paul’s parents would watch Elam while they drove back to his farm.
“Stop that,” Tarra said as she put her hand over Rikishi’s knee, feeling his jitters run through her arm with every bounce off the floor.
“I can’t, I always get nervous before I speak,” Rikishi said focused on the crowd from his chair to the side of the stage.
“Really? You’ve spoken at events with far more people and with zero children. This will be a breeze. They’ll believe anything you tell them.”
Rikishi remained motionless except for his leg moving up and down. “That’s the problem, I know these kids will absorb everything I say and believe it wholeheartedly. When I spoke to the crowds after the war, I thought everyone knew the drivel the War Department printed up for me was complete hogwash. I had no idea people could be so gullible.”
“You said everything people needed to hear at the time, Rik. You are still my hero.”
“Thanks, Tarra. I’m sorry I’ve been a beast since you visited me. There are some wounds that a soldier brings back that don’t bleed. And dad…”
Tarra touched Rikishi’s shoulder. “Hush. Everything happens for a reason, you and I both know that. I’m your sister and you will never be alone in this world again.”
“We’ll see, Tarra. You know Elam is the only heir of his generation. The knowledge must be passed on to him.”
“I know, I know, but he’s still my little boy. I want to keep him that way as long as possible,” Tarra said glancing at Elam as he ran around the room with several other boys, mostly a year or two younger than him.
“It’s tough but he’s strong and he is intelligent. He can handle it and will live a much more normal life than we did,” Rikishi said looking at his sister’s worried face. “He will know more about the universe than anyone else on the planet.”
“I’ll send him to you at the end of school year, deal?” Tarra said looking at her brother, her eyes focused as daggers.
Rikishi nodded. “Agreed. I’ll go slow with him, much slower than dad did with me.”
“You better, Rik. Family heritage or not, no one hurts my little boy and lives, even you.”
“And I also agree to that,” Rikishi said without hesitation or worry about the ghosts that waited to haunt him. He would risk everything for that boy.
* * *
“Ladies and gentlemen, the big and the little ones,” the female school principal said smiling and leaning towards the children seated in the front rows, “I would like to introduce to you our featured speaker for this victory day celebration, the uncle of our very own Elam Hamon, Rikishi.”
Rikishi smiled as he walked on stage and greeted the principal. They held hands and turned for the camera as dozens of camera bulbs flashed almost simultaneously.
When they had met earlier for, the principal, the daughter of the school superintendent or something, she scolded him for the disruption his presence had caused at her school. The original estimated crowd size was under five hundred people, but after the impromptu press conference on Tarra’s front lawn, the constable’s office was inundated with calls about the location of the school. The constable declared the celebration a special event and demanded that it be moved to the outside stadium to hold the crowd. Even the national newspapers and television studios wanted to cover the event.
“Thank you, Madam Principal,” said Rikishi still trying to remember her name. No bother, he would never see her again after this event. “I’m very happy to see so many people, even the newspapers, so motivated to help our children achieve their dreams.” Rikishi frowned as the crowd laughed.
“That is why I am here, not to celebrate our so-called victory over the enemy, but to encourage you to move on with your lives and raise a new generation that will not look to violence anymore. We have all suffered enough. War is not a victory, but a failure of civilization on one or both sides. The people in the Order have suffered enough at the hands of our politicians.”
“I object to your tone,” yelled a man in a very expensive suit in the front row sitting next to several large men. Rikishi knew the protester was the mayor of the capital, Bren Haysworth, from his thick urban accent. The mayor arrived with his entourage just before the event started and Rikishi was lead like a dog on a leash to greet the pompous politician. He was polite but disliked the man for other reasons.
“The Honorable Mayor Haysworth,” Rikishi commented with sarcasm dripping from his lips. “You are exactly the type of person I’m trying to keep my nephew from becoming.”
The Mayor frowned, his bushy eyebrows and mustache, a common fashion trend in the capital district, almost completely covering his fat, rotund face and his skin turned a slight pink.
“How dare you, sir!” shouted the governor as his bodyguards approached Rikishi. “You insult your betters when you are nothing more than a farmer of pig shit.”
“I am a farmer, sir, but at least I didn’t raise a coward.”
“You insolent worm!”
“Captain Haysworth was charged with dereliction of duty and misbehavior before the enemy during an assault on an Order base. The company lost half it’s unit strength before communications could be reestablished with one of the squad leaders. A lot of good men died because your son fled the battlefield.”
“You have no right!” the Mayor said pulling the jacket of one of his bodyguards. “Seize him. Let’s see how the Magistrate handles slanderers!”
“I only speak the truth, sir. I always wondered how Captain Haysworth avoided military prison until now.”
As the bodyguards grabbed Rikishi’s wrist and pulled the microphone from his hand, Tarra lunged forward.
“Get your hands off him,” she screamed as she pulled on the nearest black suited bodyguard. The large man turned and pushed Tarra hard, her body collapsing as her head hit the floor.
“Momma!” cried Elam as he ran to his unmoving mother.
Rikishi felt nothing as he allowed the programming to take over. He twisted his arm to break the wristlock and planted his fist squarely on the jaw of his attacker. He grabbed the microphone stand and swung it like a club, the heavy base plate striking the bodyguard that hurt Tarra.
“Security! Security! This madman is trying to kill me!” screamed the Mayor.
As chaos consumed the stadium and a riot spilled out into the nearby streets, no one at the event noticed the bright new stars in the sky that suddenly appeared.