FEBRUARY 6, 1959
I MET A STRANGE, UNEARTHLY WOMAN HERE SEVEN DAYS AGO, WHEN I WAS IN LOS ANGELES VISITING THE STAR OF MY IDOL. THE WOMAN WAS LYING NEXT TO THE STAR, MUTTERING IN LATIN. SHE WAS TERRIFIED, ALONE, AND BADLY INJURED. I GAVE HER FOOD AND TRIED TO TREAT HER WOUNDS, BUT I FEAR I DID LITTLE GOOD, FOR THEY WERE UNLIKE ANY INJURIES I HAD SEEN BEFORE.
AFTER A FEW DAYS TOGETHER, SHE DIRECTED ME TO THE SITE OF A MYSTERIOUS CRASH THAT MUST HAVE OCCURRED OVER TWO YEARS AGO. I COULD NOT UNDERSTAND HER WORDS, BUT I SOMEHOW KNEW THAT SHE WANTED ME TO REMEMBER THE LOCATION OF THE CRASH, AND GIVE INSTRUCTIONS TO WHOEVER MIGHT COME TO THIS STAR SEEKING GUIDANCE. IN RETURN, I COULD SENSE THAT SHE WOULD GRANT MY GREATEST WISH, AND SOMEHOW ENSURE THAT MY FAVORITE COMEDIAN WOULD LIVE A MAGICALLY LONG LIFE. ALTHOUGH I CANNOT DESCRIBE HOW SHE COMMUNICATED THIS PROMISE TO ME, I FEEL CERTAIN THAT SHE WILL SOMEHOW KEEP MY IDOL ALIVE FOR AS LONG AS SHE CAN, AND THAT IF HE SHOULD EVER DIE, IT MUST BE BECAUSE HER OWN LIFE ENERGY IS FAILING DESPERATELY.
AND SINCE I KNOW THAT SHE WILL KEEP HER PROMISE TO ME, I LEAVE THIS MESSAGE HERE TO KEEP MY PROMISE TO HER. NOW THAT SHE IS GONE, I WILL RETURN TO MY HOME IN THE COUNTY AND STATE OF NEW YORK. PLEASE CONTACT ME WHEN YOU TRANSLATE THIS MESSAGE. IDENTIFY YOURSELF BY TELLING ME THE NAME OF MY FAVORITE COMEDIAN.
Emperor Scarisi surveyed the battlefield before him. A bloody business indeed. His minions had done well—in fact they had turned out to be better skilled in the arts of war than any of the other factions that his forces faced, even to the extent that the lowliest private in his own army could defeat the mightiest general of any of the other factions. Now, as the sun slowly set, his advisors provided him with the highlights of the day’s campaign; he reviewed them by torchlight outside his tent.
The opening skirmish had not concerned him at all: a four-star general loyal to Emperor Cho had ridden out of the south and dominated the battlefield. In the end, Cho had gathered three of his own soldiers, including a corporal from the east, and a private from the west, before returning to the direction whence he came.
Emperor Dura’s four-star general then emerged from the west—it was the nature of the other Emperors to try and win the early battles, since they all knew that Emperor Scarisi’s forces would always prevail in the later battles of the day—and he too met with three of his own soldiers, including a private from the east and a sergeant from the south, and together they all rode back into the west.
The forces of Emperor Hon then tried to accomplish the same maneuver, but lacked the strength: a mere private from the west met a fellow Hon four-star general in the east, but a mere private from Emperor Scarisi’s forces had met them from the south, and dominated all.
Emperor Cho tentatively advanced a sergeant from the south, who joined a Cho second lieutenant from the west—only to fall, as Hon’s forces did during the previous battle, to a lowly Scarisi corporal that ambushed them from the east.
And then began the massacre: Emperor Scarisi’s forces emerged from all directions, led by the Emperor’s strongest soldier, riding out of the east to claim his victory, being joined in the battlefield by a second lieutenant and a colonel. And then his three-star general had come from the east, surprising his captain from the south and a pathetic corporal from Emperor Hon’s forces from the west.
His forces took a brief rest and observed as one of Dura’s three-star generals from the east united with a second lieutenant from the south and a corporal from the west. Scarisi remembered this respite: at that point, he only had four soldiers left, two in the south and two in the east.
And so he ordered them into battle, and the massacre continued as he won the next three battles: his major from the south laying waste to Dura’s captain from the east and lieutenant colonel from the west; his two-star general from the south combining with his sergeant to defeat Hon’s first lieutenant; and then his lieutenant colonel laying waste to a Cho two-star general from the south and a Hon captain.
And here the reports ended, since his own soldiers had finished their battles for the day. But the other factions fought on. Scarisi remembered that a two-star general from the west encountered a sergeant from the east and a captain from the south, but he did not remember the allegiance of any of these soldiers. And then two majors came out of the east, and a colonel and a lieutenant colonel came from the south, and a colonel and a lieutenant colonel came from the west, but he couldn’t remember whose soldiers these were, either. He did remember that Emperor Hon’s colonel did not emerge from the west, but he couldn’t recall any other details.
But Scarisi was troubled; something was missing, something very important. He reviewed the reports again, and then he realized the magnitude of the omission. The fools! They had neglected to mention any of the soldiers that had arisen from the north of the battlefield! Every one of the day’s battles had involved a soldier from the north—two of them had been his own men. He called to his aide immediately for an update, but was informed that he held all of the information that his pathetic intelligence unit had been able to discover.
Scarisi was shaking with rage. “The north is the key! I must know which soldiers from which factions began their day there!”
His aide trembled. “Sir, nothing more is available. Perhaps I can inquire to determine which generals emerged from the northern region…”
Scarisi struck the aide to the ground. “You idiot,” he said with contempt. “The generals are irrelevant. It is the others that hold the answer I need. I demand a complete report of all the soldiers from the north. And I need it ordered alphabetically by faction and then in order of descending rank within each faction! I must have it as soon as possible!”
The aide crawled away in terror. The task seemed impossible, and yet perhaps, just perhaps…
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