The Purifiers

3 Sep

Troco Nex looked like a man who deserved to have the rank of captain, or even something higher.

He was toweringly tall, nearly six feet and a half. His body was all muscular strength, with no fat whatsoever. His head was long and thin, with piercing, fearless eyes of gray.

Troco had been assigned to border posts on the eastern boundary of Tekia since his graduation from Officers’ School seven years before. But now he had received promotion to the personal staff of General Zalo Pelka, Commander of the Third Army Corps at Fort Istok. At first, it had appeared the opportunity of an officer’s lifetime to Troco, a path to permanent elevation and promotion. Now,though, he was no longer so certain of that.

General Pelka was not at all an easy superior to serve. Comparatively short and small for a high officer, the ambitious Zalo had always been a soldier who depended on his sharp, quick brain. His reputation on the general staff had been earned for inventive strategic thinking. This made him appear to be a man of headquarters rather than potential battlefields out in the open air. Pelka’s forte was finding ways of applying new technical weapons to warfare of the future.

But now a new, unprecedented task had been given to the General through secret orders from the top of the government’s civilian pyramid. Zalo summoned his assistant, Captain Troco Nex, to his office to tell him the details of these unexpected, unprecedented new plans of the head of the Tekian state.

The two officers sat opposite each other in their powder blue uniforms, at the General’s long magnesium desk.

“The time has arrived, it appears, for our Prime Leader’s start of Ethnic Purification. He has talked and written about it for years, long before he won election and came to power. There can be no question now. He has always been serious about this matter. The aim is going to be the immediate solution of our minority problem in Tekia. The Subic population, by one means or another, will be removed from our midst. Within the period of only one year, their numbers must be brought down to absolute zero. That is the gist of these secret orders that last night came down to me by special messenger.”

Troco seemed electrified by what he had just been told. “How is all that going to be done in only one year’s time?” he asked excitedly.

The General looked away, as if the answer were written on one of the walls of white. “The formula has been set years ago by our Prime Leader as one third, one third, and one third. That has been interpreted to mean that a third of the Subics are to be expelled from our country, another third are to be converted to our Tekian religion and must adopt our language and culture, and the final third are to be exterminated. In that way, we Tekian are going to solve our minority problem. After all, the Subics today make up a third of the total population. They multiply much faster than our own native Tekian people. The Prime Leader has always warned of the demographic ruin we will face unless we solve our problems with this cancerous growth in our country.”

A thoughtful silence fell over the white-walled office.

“What is our Command specifically expected to do?” inquired Troco in an anxious voice.

General Pelka looked at him with cold determination. “I have been given an entire border region to cleanse out and purify. You and other staff officers are to be assigned specific Subic communities that you will process.” He looked down at a roster sheet lying on top of his magnesium desk. “Yours, Troco, will be the large village named Seto. The campaign against the undesirables will begin in only three days. We have to begin preparing for action at once.”

Fields of rye and barley surrounded the central node of white-washed cottages where the inhabitants of Seto dwelled.

The Subic church and school were the highest structures in the village.

The military occupation of Seto was set to begin at dawn, simultaneous with identical movements and actions far and wide.

The Prime Leader could be seen on the morning news broadcast by wave-screen to the majority and minority population of Tekia. The Subics were told that their removal from their homes was to be for their own benefit and happiness. Their deportation and relocation was meant to provide them greater opportunity and security. “I am looking out for the greater good of all groups and individuals,” promised the ruler with absolute, unquestioned authority. The purpose of the changes under way was to separate the two populations completely and finally, into totally homogeneous communities. “We will from now on be living in a newly created Tekia without the problems or difficulties of the past,” said the Prime Leader with a mocking grin.

Seto was like scores of other Subic villages in the eastern edge if Tekia, only larger than most. Captain Nex arrived there in the hours before dawn with a company of men who set up a tent camp right outside the border of the place. The first order of business for the force of Tekians was to absorb the existing authority and use it for the purposes of ethnic purification as defined and projected by the Prime Leader. Troco walked into the center of Seto to meet with its mayoral staru, the white-haired elder named Glt Domu. He found the cottage of the local chief and knocked at the front door.

The door was opened by a surprisingly beautiful young woman with black hair and bluish eyes. She seemed shocked by the appearance of a tall, athletic young man in the uniform of a Tekian captain.

“Good morning, Miss,” began Troco with a pleasant smile. “I have come here today to meet with the staru of this village of Seto, Mr. Glt Domu. Could you inform him that Captain Nex wishes to speak with him concerning the future course of this farming settlement.”

“My father is now eating his morning kaigan in our kitchen,” said the still alarmed young woman in a meek and submissive tone. “If you will step into our father, I will tell him that you are here to see him, sir.”

She quickly turned and disappeared into the interior of the cottage.

Troco did as she had told him, stepping in and closing the oak door.

Dressed in a simple white cotton frock, the female who had to be the daughter of the village staru led the Tekian captain in powder blue uniform to the room in the rear where the chieftain sat finishing his breakfast of scrambled eggs and burgoo.

The little man with large hazel eyes stared at the intruder who had entered his most private space. He said nothing as he peered at the soldier who had taken over physical control of his bailiwick.

It was Troco who felt compelled to speak first.

“Let me introduce myself, sir. I am Captain Troco Nex, in command of the land force company that is in occupation of Seto in pursuance of fulfilling the orders issued by our country’s Prime Leader. I have responsibility for carrying out the policies of population redistribution and transfer enunciated in the last several days in the boundaries of this community of yours. My first task will be to administer a complete census and registration of all the inhabitants of Seto, including the children of all ages. My hope is to begin an examination on a house-to-house basis within several hours.” He glanced at the timer on his wrist. “I have ordered squads of my troops to start the process at noon today. That should give you time to inform everyone in your village what is coming and what to expect.”

The face of the staru had turned red with emotion. It became clear to Troco that Glt Domu was experiencing difficulty suppressing the anger and indignation he felt. After a pause, the old man began to speak.

“It is, of course, my duty to facilitate this census and cooperate with you and your men. I realize that these are orders from above that direct what you do here in Seto. My hope is that we can work together so as to avoid misunderstandings of any kind. Just tell me what you need from me, and I shall endeavor to assist your efforts, Captain.”

All of a sudden, the daughter of the staru burst out with words that her father dared not utter himself.

“This is all a trick and a fraud, meant to deceive our people so that they don’t see what is being done to them. We know what the Prime Leader plans to happen. For years now he has been telling us in his books and speeches. The final purpose of this special census and registration is to make it impossible for any Subic in this country to survive the general, all-out massacre that is in the cards for our people. The Tekian majority aims to annihilate all of us. Nobody will be allowed to survive the coming slaughter in store for us.”

Her face burned with emotion, her hazel eyes flared with inner fire.

“Please forgive the wild words of my only child, my dear Eana. She is young and has had little experience of life and all its hardness. Her mind does not understand the nature of politics out in the wider world. She has rarely ever left Seto and does not know much beyond our limited local horizon. Do not blame her for what she just said.”

Troco focused his gaze on Eana, whose storming temper made her beauty all the more visible and noticeable. “I shall overlook that sudden seizure in you, young lady. All of us, at times, say things without prior thought or consideration.” He turned his face toward Glt and spoke directly to him. “I believe that the main thrust of official policy is going to be on relocation and deportation, so that you Subics must prepare yourselves for major movement elsewhere.

“There will be time and opportunity for individuals to convert to and join the Church of Tekia, renouncing all allegiance and breaking all ties with any other religion. That has clearly been announced on many occasions by our Prime Leader.”

“No one in Seto is going to become a turn-coat,” cried out Eana in a rough, raucous voice that seemed not her own.

Trocco decided to ignore her behavior as far as he could.

“I shall return this afternoon, Staru, to consult and coordinate what my men and I will be doing here in your village,” he said, turning about with military precision, glancing at Eana, and exiting from the cottage with moderate speed.

The questionings in the school began immediately that afternoon.

Each household, beginning at the extreme western end of Seto, was brought in to be registered and interrogated. Were the willing to convert to the Tekian national religion and join its official state church? There was no one in the entire village who would accept such a cowardly surrender of honor and integrity. This question only caused silent, hidden anger among the local Subics. The interviews went on the second and third days, but there were no religious changes to report to military headquarters, Captain Nex found out.

Would you and your family be willing to emigrate out of Tekia? was asked of every individual and family. Several possible alternative destinations were mentioned by the uniformed interrogators. The benefits of this way of escape were emphasized and described by those who inquired. Of the several hundred members of the community who were asked this question, only a childless couple who were rapidly ageing accepted this way out. They would go to live with their distant relatives far away in Subicia if the government would pay their travel and moving expenses. Their idea was to take a cow, a goat, and a bunch of chickens with them into exile. “We would not be able to pay the expenses of moving there on our own,” pleaded the husband.

Troco made a wry face when he heard the Subic give such an answer. He doubted that any of the expenses for the transplantation could be thrown upon the Tekian state.

Beyond this impossible case, there were no other persons who would voluntarily leave the country for elsewhere.

Everyone seemed to realize what the only remaining option for the occupying military would have to be. Captain Troco Nex lost a lot of sleep each night. Was he going to have to become the executioner of all the Subics in Seto? He had as yet received no instructions from above on how the extinction of this population was to be carried out.

He suspected it was only a matter of time until he received precise orders on how he was to kill all the villagers.

It was a little past noon that Troco decided to talk with the staru, Glt Domu, about the merciless finale that was approaching for the stubborn inhabitants of Seto,

He was surprised to find that the local chief was not at the moment at home. “Come in and wait for my father,” said Eana. “He should be back here for his repast soon.”

“Thank you,” said the Captain. He entered the cottage and took the guest chair in the front parlor. This was a good chance to talk with the daughter of the staru, he all at once realized.

He looked at Eana, standing across the room from him, and asked her a delicate question.

“Why is it that your father refuses to compromise with the new order of things? Can’t he see that the alternatives are limited for his people?”

“He is a man who believes in the things that our ancestors brought with them when they first came to Tekia generations ago. We are not people who can change themselves at the command of anyone on the outside. We must continue to live the way we have for so many centuries of time. That makes us hard and stubborn, I guess.”

She gave the visitor in uniform a bittersweet smile.

Troco sensed a wave of strong feeling flowing through him. “You and your father must think about your own futures as individuals,” he said in a low, controlled tone. “I wish that there was some simple way that I could help and protect the two of you, Eana.”

He looked at her with a paionful expression on his face. I have to do something for the salvation of these two Subics, an inner voice told him.

At that moment, the front door of the cottage opened. Troco turned in that direction and saw Glt Domu entering. The staru stopped in his tracks when he caught sight of the Tekian captain. “I did not expect to see you in here,” he managed to mumble in a halting voice.

“I have been talking with your daughter,” disclosed the officer. “I am anxious to see the two of you safe and sound.Since you are unwilling to becoe religious convrts, I have searched for a method of shielding you from the purification policies now going into effect. There is one final path out that I can think of.” He turned his eyes on Eana, while still continuing to speak to the staru. “I wish to ask for the hand in marriage of your Eanu, sir. That is the one sure way of making her a protected person.She would no longer be considered a Subic in the strictly legal sense. Eana would come under the protection of her Tekian husband.

“I would also try to protect you from the new programs, sir. I could certainly produce some false ientity documents for your safety.”

Troco looked back and forth between the two shocked and speechless persons who had just heard what he proposed to do.

For a while, no one dared to say anything.

Finally, Glt Domu made a pivotal decision. “Let me talk with my daughter, my friend. I yhink your idea contains much merit. But first I have to find out whether Eana is willing to enter into such a relationship with you, a Tekian man.”

Troco sprang to his feet. “I will go away for now, but then return this evening for an answer to my plan.”

After he was gone, father and child gazed at each other in deep silence.

The die was cast, Troco very soon learned.

As staru of the village, Glt was enpowered to issue licences for civil marriages. Eana said she was willing to go through all the required motions for wedlock.

Troco promised that he wouls obtain new identification papers for the staru, stating that he was a native Tekian.

“I will get you two out of Seto immediately, by the close of tomorrow. The future of this village is uncertain and full of risk and danger,” the captain told the two of them.

Troco ordered a special landcar handed over to him from the area motor pool.

At the steering wheel of he army vehicle, he drove the Domus out of their village that night. Glt had his false documents and Eana carried a marriage license making her the spouse of a Tekian officer.

The destination was a nearby town with a rail-line station.

The escapees were given tickets bought for them by Trocco. The latter saw that they were safely aboard the train.

His final act was to say farewell to the pair he had saved.

The Captain was surprised when Eana came near him and kissed her legal husband on the cheek. “Thank you, Troco,” she whispered. “You are truly a good man with the soul of an ancient hero.”

He smiled at his legal wife. “You must hide in the capital city until
conditions become safer. Your life in Seto is past and has to be forgotten. I will try to find you in days to come, but cannot be certain when.”

He then shook hands with Glt Domu and left the train car.

In the following years, many Subics disappeared in a massive bloodbath.

Troco Nex never heard from the pair and never learned what their fate might have been.

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