The True Meaning of Zelbrigen

“Get your boots of my desk Bekker!”

Star Colonel Brikai looked like he was ready to tear the limbs off a bear; something Bekker would have paid hard currency to one of of those shifty Diamond Shark merchants to see.

“Alright, alright, no need to shout.  You said to get comfy.”  He smiled innocently.

“I said to settle in you Surat, not scuff the furniture.  You know the difference.”  Bekker did, and languidly rearranged himself into his chair; smiling the whole time. “Your Bondsman trainee broke Zelbrigen and killed a valued warrior of the Clan.  It was YOUR duty to train him in our customs.  It was YOUR duty to ensure he would assimilate.  YOU FAILED!”  Brikai’s face red with anger but controlled as he shouted from across the desk.  Bekker allowed himself to look pained.

“Star Colonel, it hurts very much to hear you say such a thing about me.  Your opinion of me matters very much.”  Brikai rolled his eyes at the lanky warrior.

“Bekker, you were a poor choice for training officer; as isorla you barely assimilated into Jade Falcon.”  Bekker winced.  “I am going to to give you a chance to tell me why I should not have this warrior shot for breaking Zelbrigen and why we should carry your mistakes forward.”

“Well, that will be easy.  Because he did not.” Burkai stared at Bekker as if he had gone mad. 

“I am going to chalk that up to neural degradation.” Bekker winced again. “Do better or I will have you sent to a Solahma unit to fight pirates in the periphery.”  Bekker smiled and leaned forward, grabbing a candy out of a dish on the Star Colonel’s desk.  Brikai’s eyes widened a bit at the impunity.

“Well, let me put it this way.” Bekker popped the candy in his mouth. “What is the point of Zelbrigen? To ensure a fair fight between equals, to reduce casualties and to reduce waste; Quiaff?”

“Aff…”  Brikai’s tone changed to one of caution.

“It was an unfair fight.  He is no trueborn warrior, he is a trashborn Spheroid.  He had to fight a blooded warrior and a bloodnamed warrior who were both genetically and culturally his superior.”

“War is unfair, as a warrior he would be treated as an equal, that is no excuse.” Brikai waived his hand dismissively.

“To quote the Spheroid’s, bullshit. You and I both know how the Clan-at-large treats freeborn warriors even if you seem to have a more… moderate view.” Burkai’s breathing got heavy and his face turned red. “Even here, you treat me, a bloodnamed warrior, as less than your other pure Jade Falcon Warriors.” Bekker leaned forward, grabbed another candy and flipped it into his mouth like a schoolchild playing with food.

“You filthy vat-waste! HOW DARE YOU!” Burkai stood up and Bekker lept to his feet to meet the Star Colonel’s rage filled gaze.

“You deny it is true, but it is! And you know it!  Do you deny that it is a common view?”  A whirlwind passed across Burkai’s face before he regained composure and could answer.

“I suppose it is…” Bekker leaned forward and deftly snatched yet another candy.

“Ahhhh, now we are getting somewhere Star Colonel!”  Bekker dropped back into his chair and popped the candy into his mouth. “So we know he had a social disadvantage to make up, and then entering the second fight he had an equipment disparity.  His mech was severely damaged and he was outgunned and outclassed in every way.  Had he not performed the, uh… death from above, do you think he would have passed the trial with more than one kill; or even his life?”

“No, probably not.” Burkai slowly lowered himself back into his chair; wary.

“Should he have chosen to fail instead? Would that have been in keeping with our ways?”

“No.”

“Do you remember the old training adage about killing with your gun, a knife, your claws… err your talons, your teeth, etcetera?” 

“Yes, a warrior fights with everything to destroy their enemy.”

“As they should.”

“As. They. Should.”  Bekker punctuated each word by tapping his finger in the air, as if touching them.  To Brikai it was like watching a snake strike “Is not the battlemech a weapon?”

“Not like this it is not.”

“Why, not? Our mechwarriors train in hand to hand combat every day.  Many of our omnimechs have hands.  What are those for if not to squeeze and crush or enemies.  We would stomp an infantryman under the feet of our mechs without thought.  This is the same.”

“Zelbrigen says otherwise, Bekker and you know it!”

“Zelbrigen is in the eye of the beholder!  Those spheroids don’t know or understand our ways.  We must be flexible and that means accepting that Zelbrigen is a guide and not a ferrocrete wall.  If we want to survive what comes after Revival and the liberation of Terra we had better understand the spheroids.  There will be integration of them into our Touman and that means allowing them to interpret and follow our ways.  We will need pilots like him to bridge the gap now and in the future.”

“NOT, if it means sacrificing who we are.”  The agitation in Brikai’s voice was clear.

“That warrior risking everything for his glory and a second kill, which, by the way, is also the glory of this clan; is the very essence of our doctrine and Zelbrigen.  He did nothing wrong but fight with every tool available.”

Burkai leaned back in his chair and inhaled deeply.

“There is something very wrong with you Bekker, but something also very smart.  I do not know if it is those Ghost Bear genes, or your terrible attitude.  Both make me want to see you defeated in a circle of equals.  I will consider what you have said, but do not expect me to be forgiving for the unnecessary death of a warrior.”

“No, of course not; but do not let that warrior’s death be the cause of another.  This one… well I think he has potential.”

“If he screws up again it will be on you Bekker.”

“Fair enough.” Bekker shrugged.

“Thank you for coming and presenting your argument.  Now get out of here.” Bekker stood up, straightened his uniform and turned to leave.

“What, no candy before you go?”  Brikai held the bowl up.

“No, thank you, Star Colonel, it is vile stuff and tastes like harjel and sugar; what is it called?”

“It is Root Beer candy.  If it was unpalatable why did you eat it?”

“Truthfully, because I knew it would offend your sense of order and conformity to see me eat instead of show deference. It made you angry enough to actually listen to me and not see things that were just black and white; like our doctrine.” 

“GET. OUT!”  Bekker left the office quickly, but smiling.

Burkai made a mental note to recommend Bekker to the Watch.  They could make use of someone like him.