The transporter was set to drop me into the middle of the funerary celebrations. I had planned to land on the stage next to the priest giving my eulogy. I missed, even being a prophet isn’t fool-proof and I’m certainly more of a fool than I like to admit.
Instead of the stage, I materialized front and centre on the casket. Standing and looking over the crowds I said, “Closed casket was a good idea.”
The priest on the stage blanched, kneeled, and said, “But you’re supposed to be dead.”
“The reports of my death were exaggerated.” As I spoke, I looked around. We were in the anti-grav stadium, the only structure on Venus large enough to hold several million viewers. It was home to the Venusian Vultures, the greatest anti-grav team in the solar system. I’d snuck into more games here as a child than I could remember. I hadn’t seen the playing field this close since I’d first become Sun-Speaker. There were large thrones set up around the stage and casket for each Solar-Monarch. The Venusian Empire had two delegates, their king and queen. I nodded to their queen and my ex-best friends. The Martian thrones were empty and I shook my head. The independent Republic of the Asteroid belt had their president and her wife. The Jupiter Protectorate had their monarchs, and the Uranus Confederate had their current warlord. I did a double take when I saw that the Trans-Neptunian Parliament had sent two of its representatives. The androgynous TNP members nodded at me and were cheeky enough to wink at me.
The crowd had started to applaud quietly when I appeared. Unsure if they should be celebrating or booing. “Friends, Venusians, Countrymen,” some openings for speeches were classic for a reason, “I am alive and I have come here for an explanation. Why have I been declared dead when blood still rushes through my veins?” I paused, turning away from the crowd I spoke to the centre chairs holding the Venusians, “Why?” a few seconds and I repeated, “Why?” The crowd got the idea and soon I had near two million voices chanting with me. It was pretty amazing.
Rising from her chair, Gwindolyn, whom I’d always known as Gwin, the high Queen of Venus and protector of the inner planets lifted her hands silencing the crowd.
“Sun-Speaker, this is not a funeral, this is a trial. We knew your ego would force you to come and face us.” The casket sprouted arms and clasped itself to each of my limbs and my neck. You shouldn’t have come. You knew it was a trap. Gwin spoke to me in my mind, her limited telepathic powers and more than a decade with me allowed her that.
“What are the charges?” I demanded.
Sighing she said, “You are charged with impersonating a Sun-Speaker and abusing the holy rights of that office.”
Dramatically I threw my head back and laughed. “Did you need proof of my office?” I started collecting heat around me slowly preparing for a blast of pure energy.
All the delegates are shielded from heat based attacks.
I know Gwin but it’ll startle the smug little jerks.
“We all know you are powerful. That is not in question. The church of Sol has repealed your status and it is the opinion of this council that you are a fraud.”
“The only frauds I see on sitting on thrones,” I spat out the words with contempt. The crowd cheered, unfortunately they didn’t decide my fate.
“Your contempt for authority of all kinds is well documented.” The Venusian King laughed, sitting as if he were at a show and not a trial.
“Hal, formerly known as the Sun-Speaker, on the charge of impersonating a Sun-Speaker, how do you plead?”
“Not guilty, but you’ve already made up your minds.”
“Had you pleaded guilty we could have shown mercy. Since you deny the obvious, your sentence is immediate death.” I’m sorry Hal. I tried to stop them.
I know Gwin, I smiled up at her. Turning to the crowd I said, “I have acted as the Sun-Speaker for twenty-three glorious years. I regret only that I couldn’t do more.” I took off my official garb and revealed a simple Venusian’s peasants outfit. “Let me die as I was born, one of the nameless, faceless mass, of glorious Venusian people.” I paused. “You are the empire; you are its lifeblood, its strength, and its beauty. Long live the Venusian People. May they someday taste freedom.”
I heard the plasma gun a moment before the searing pain passed through my back and exposed my chest. In my last few moments of life I heard two-million voices rising up in anger chanting, “Freedom.”
When my eyes opened again I saw grey ceiling tiles and smelled antiseptic. “If this is the afterlife it needs more interior decorators.” My chest hurt, but when I looked down, the hole I’d seen was gone.
Standing around my bed, Janet, Suzie, Travis, Adric, and Caro smiled down at me. Even dead, they didn’t laugh at my jokes.
“You’re not dead Hal. I used my blood to synthesize more of my serum. You’ll live.” Janet, with the prophetic powers of Caro, had worked up a serum that could heal me.
“I was supposed to die. The revolution…”
“Is twice as strong with a martyr that rose from the grave in front of them,” Caro’s voice echoed in my head.
“What about Sol? Do I…” Sol interrupted me with a huge dump of information, but it only hurt a little. Nothing like it had before.
“Hal, your body reacted oddly to the serum, instead of making you younger it has boosted your natural healing ability to amazing levels.” Janet’s mouth was open.
Sitting up and feeling a phantom ache in my chest I said, “Since I’m not dead, we might as well do some good. Who’s up for saving the Venusian Royal family from an angry mob?”