I will kill your children, and you will love me.
The words grew heavy in Majjen’s mind as grief consumed his thoughts. After millennia, he had found ample misery. His notions were extreme, but his mission necessary, despite the consequences. Would these revelations make it easier for his species—the Cohort—to understand what he must do? Could they fathom his obligation to horrific measures if such actions did not serve their own purposes?
"They won't get it," he muttered. "They rarely do."
His handwritten note was instead another attempt to convince himself. An odd feeling. This boundless need to prove something. To justify himself. To explain risky actions. And in such a primitive form at that—charcoal and wood scrawled on a forbidden paper. He must focus on his regular reports, staying off the central neuronical with such reflections. That should keep his true intentions hidden from the Cohort. He crumpled the hasty document, tossing it into a micro-incinerator by the desk.
His eyes adjusted as they landed on the Destobush terrarium nearby. He caressed the glass enclosure, pondering the purple shrub inside as the silly idea of a confession moved to the back of his mind.
Majjen had known for a while that explaining away his self-assigned task was impossible. Why waste time on petty interpersonal communication with his superiors? They had not yet identified the events he had perpetrated. Not at the moments when they had taken place.
He grabbed his nearby cane, drawing near another terrarium. He spent an extra moment appreciating the comfort of a familiar form. His memories from a prior magical planet complemented its red buds and leaves shimmering like small rainbows. He laid a bony palm on the glass enclosure, caressing it as if soothing a child.
"Why do we look at beautiful things, hoping the horrors will disappear? We fill our minds with splendor until they can accept nothing else, while the terrors we make fade into dark untimely haunts. Beliefs squelch our guilt while sorrows boost our shame."
He sighed. Centuries ago, he realized he might never find his prize. Yet if anyone could complete the mission, he was the obvious choice. His skills grew after they ripped him from his family. Unparalleled abilities to infiltrate, redirect conversation, confound inquiries, and withstand interrogation… they taught each skill to him as a youth. Espionage became his art and the multiverse his canvas. History was as malleable as soft metal, and he had bent worlds to the Cohort’s wishes.
This service had numbed him. Now not much more than a machine for intelligence gathering. They had cultivated his penchant for torture as he matured. Percussion sticks cracked his exoskeleton and transport energy seared his mind. They had wished him to know pain so he could inflict it with ease.
Majjen paced his steel and glass living quarters, a nearby mirrored wall reflecting his snake-like head. He marveled anew at his plant specimens—peculiar and diverse biological life forms adorning the shelves. One shone vividly of turquoise. Another took the form of slimy vines. The thorns on yet another rivaled the fangs of deadly predators. He had gathered them all from a dozen worlds, preserving them here as a prize for... what purpose exactly? Why had he kept them? These trophies of dying planets.
How many had the Cohort occupied? He had lost count. Not that it mattered. His people had forgotten, too, driven only by their own survival. Why keep track? Planetary mortality had followed each occupation as they raped worlds for resources over and over. And so it had persisted for eons, with or without his intervention. He sometimes wondered about the purpose of his service. Survival perhaps? Or duty? Had he been enjoying it?
No, his motives were rooted deeper in the history of his people.
It was written in the Chronicles that on the 8th gyration the imperishable energy of the Agan came to the original Majjen in a dream. Taking the form of scorpion and snake, the Agan eternal named him the sole prophet of the universe.
Majjen. The honorific title conferred to this lowly scout later in life was a reward for his services to the Cohort. This Majjen saw such a blessing as a curse, a hateful gift laid at his feet. A rock to stumble upon. But with it had come his true path and renewed purpose. If they discovered him, they would charge his profanity and punish him with death. A faint grin touched his face as the mother ship shook ever so slightly.
The Chronicles of Majjen claimed the prophet had ushered in the arrival of the Great Protector. Arguments over interpreting the ancient text continued among the Cohort to this day.
The majority opinion of scholars explained the Great Protector proper as the being who rose to cleanse the Cohort, allowing the Agan to start over from the desolation, never to be seen again.
A smaller group believed the Great Protector to be eternal, to manifest in many forms throughout history. Majjen had chosen to believe this alternative opinion. That belief had driven him on this grand quest. His quest. If a chance existed that he was right, he would pursue it for eternity—or at least until his own natural death—as he had done for centuries.
And so his search continued.
Had they trained him too well for their own good? He had conducted his rogue mission, even under their most watchful leaders. He had timed his movements, cloaking his deceitful actions with advanced tools and matchless skills. His covert activities correlated side-by-side with their official objectives. Their typical suspicions would never arise. Had he exceeded them? Outlived their ideologies and imperatives? Maybe.
He could sense it.
When the missions flow from your heart instead of another’s head, you never look back.
The doors to his quarters hissed open. Majjen leaned his cane against the table, turning to greet the little creature who had entered. Both stood straight and alert, keeping the traditional distance. The customary greeting of his people punctuated the silence.
"I am here," Majjen's son said.
Majjen lingered too long, words pointless in these last moments, yet he found courage to speak.
"Yes, son. The time has come for us to part."
"The shuttle is on standby."
Majjen beamed. He had trained him well. The child continued.
"Will you contact us?"
"Perhaps. Difficult to say."
His boy nodded. Had he believed the father, or simply understood the need for the lie?
"I know, father," his son interrupted, turning to leave.
“Wait!” Majjen yelled as he moved with haste to the Destobush terrarium. He lifted it gently. Three steps toward the child closed the distance as he offered him the gift. The boy took it and grinned before exiting the room, leaving Majjen alone with his mission.
One day the Cohort would understand everything. Him. His plan. But it would not matter. By then he would set history. They would abandon manipulating planetary futures, allowing worlds to follow natural courses once again. Giving orders then would be irrelevant, because by then there would be no more missions. No more lies. They would perpetrate genocide no more. By then, the Cohort would be extinct. He was sure of it.
Majjen grabbed his cane. A portal opened at the far wall. The darkened opening encircled by light as a low rumble permeated the place. As the glow shimmered in his snake-like eyes, he surveyed his quarters one last time. The simple room had been barely a home for a complicated creature such as himself. He would miss the plants. And his son. And that was all.
“As the Chronicles of Majjen have been written once, let it be done again.”