The Autokrator trotted south at the head of his train, on the sand that paved the Lechaion Road. The sun was bright and high in the sky, and the air carried a healing salt. The port of Lechaion itself was built by its industrious citizens, and the space between its walls on the way to Corinth was wide. Enough time for the statesmen and their slaves to mark the way for the great Strategos, each step toward the Agora watched closely. When he arrived there, he was treated to gifts of food and wine from the statesmen of Corinth, even as the philosophers crowded him to make their rhetoric known. There were the Kyrenaics, who promised a truth in pleasure. There were the Megarians, who promised the superiority of their logics. There were even a few students of the Autokrator’s own teacher, whose practical eye went well with his practice of conquering. Yet he’d heard of one, mad, wise, and everything else, but that one did not show his face. When he asked, he could tell that the locals did not want to answer. What might that madman say? What would he do? What would the Autokrator do if he was offended by someone in their city? After a lot of noise, Akakaios’ slave showed him where the man was sitting. Not too far, past the leafed pillars of the temple of Apollo, crouched in front of the wine barrel purported to be his home and scratching his ass. The locals stared in silence. Even the famed Strategos’ own body men kept quiet.
The Autokrator looked down at the man, evaluating, as he evaluated everything. The man stared right back at him, evaluating, as he evaluated everything. Minutes passed, or was it hours? Finally, the Autokrator said, “You know who I am.”
“Yes,” answered the houseless man, like someone had asked him what an apple was.
“Is there anything I can give you?”
“You’ve already given it.”
“What? What did I give you?”
“The sun was in my eye, and you gave me shade.”
Another long moment, enough for the watchers to murmur and twitch with the worry of not knowing what to do or say.
“I think I’ll come with you,” said Diogenes.
“Very well,” agreed Alexander with a wide and beauteous smile.
“Wonder, love. Making history, we are,” Syl squints into the sky and taps on the indicator above her, to display the year. The first year of the six hundred and ninety-seventh Olympiad. The trails of the rocket fleet line the horizon, like a line of fireworks from an era before drone light shows and synthmatia.
“Thinking, are you ready. Really ready. Birthing, our children, on Ares?” Farad asks.
“Yes. Yes, yes, yes!”