Episode 28: Imperium

They made camp at dawn. Max, who appeared content to remain in his armor, was sitting next to Arthur, talking. Isabelle was near enough to overhear their conversation.

Arthur was looking down at one of his hands as he flexed it idly. "Do you feel it?"

Max looked over at him. "Feel what?"

"The Imperium."

"Yeah. A tingle when you recalled me to service; a thrill when you assigned me to Campion; a rush when we renewed our pledges. Think the others have it, too?"

"All of them do. Not much, and they probably haven't noticed the feeling, but it's there."

"It's not quite like being in charge of the Brigade again, but it's close. It's still nothing compared to being a governor."

"Yeah. Still, you ever wonder why they let you keep your armor? There's less than two dozen of those things, you know."

"I know. I guessed what was on the Emperor's mind when I could still feel the Imperium after losing my province. It's all about the hero teams, isn't it?"

"In a manner of speaking, yes." Arthur paused and looked around. "I guess I'd better brief the others on this." He rose to his feet and whistled to attract everyone's attention. When they had gathered around, Arthur looked at Isabelle. "Max tells me you did surprisingly well against those wolves. Are you always that quick?"

She shrugged. "I was near the top of my form, but nothing spectacular."

He looked back at the group and explained, "I think that all of you will find that you're at the tops of your forms until this whole affair is over or Campion disbands. You all feel a little extra energy, a little extra will, a little extra of something that's impossible to describe, am I right?"

There were nods and quiet words of assent.

"What you're feeling is called the Imperium. The Emperor has extended a tiny portion of his supreme power, the Imperium, to Special Unit Campion. He became aware of us the instant I declared Campion's activation. There is a great secret at work here: For all of the propaganda to the contrary, the Silver Order is not the Empire's last line of defense; we are. Special Unit Campion and the rest of the code-named units assigned to retired heroes such as myself, other members of the Silver and Gold Orders, successful military governors, members of the Imperial Family, and others whom I may not name have always been waiting to pick up the Empire's fallen banner and march onwards with it. As far back as the days of the first Emperor, Avallonis Rex, who led his band of heroes across this land to free it from the great evil that had then befallen it, it has been the heroes of the Empire who have been its true strength. We now venture forth in the footsteps of the greatest heroes that this world has ever known, from Avallonis Rex to Saint George Avallonis to Saint Albus of The Order of White. We are not employees of the Empire; we are the Empire. And there is nothing in this world that can prevent us from winning."