Long before dawn, Little Soldier wakes up. His body immediately starts to move in a series of precise, regular gestures, repeated hundreds of times. He prepares himself through meditation, ablutions, strength training, snacking and concentration. Mentally, he recites the six precepts of the warrior. By himself, he is only a small soldier. But, in the service of his master, the warlord, he becomes a warrior. He puts on his armor and girds himself with his weapons. Then, he exhales with a short and sonorous breath all that is weakness in him; then he inhales, determined, the energy of bravery and courage. He is ready. He is going to dedicate a new day to the glory of his lord. This is his lot, his destiny.
In ordinary life, Little Soldier is a laborer on the docks of the big city port. He unloads containers of super tankers from all over the world, mainly from Asia. He doesn’t know what’s in the containers. He just knows their number and in which area he must store them, before another laborer, in a few hours, days, or months, moves them again to ship the contents somewhere in the country, to a supermarket or a factory. For the little soldier, the mundane world is only a reflection of real life. The real life is to accomplish his mission. He was born for this. The port is the starting point for conquests. The containers, which arrive by the whole cargo, are so many units of value and goods, acquired with great struggle. They are war treasures. But all these treasures are nothing, compared to the very noble ideal of the warlord: the absolute mastery of the seven kingdoms, inaugurating the golden age of humanity, the end of conflicts, struggles, famine and injustice. Little soldier will no longer be a soldier, but a free citizen of the unified kingdom. The lord of war will become the lord of peace. Under the power of a single master, the seven kingdoms will obey a single regime, that of “the empire of unified nature”, in the words of its master. The goal is very close. Six kingdoms have already been conquered. Only one remains. And today is the big day. The day of the conquest of the seventh kingdom, the Septentrion. Today little soldier doesn’t unload containers. He’s embarking. The flagship is docked. It proudly displays the blood and gold pennant of the conqueror. After checking his equipment one last time, he walks towards the huge ship. A few meters away from the imposing naval building painted in the usual military gray, he stops and looks up. Twenty meters above him, he can read in black capital letters: IMPERTURBABLE. It is indeed the impression that he gives. Suddenly, with a metallic noise, a hatch opens in the side of the cabin. Little Soldier approaches. Then, without hesitation, he penetrates in the most grandiose and complex machinery ever realize: cables, pipes, hydraulic cylinders, compressors, pulleys, mechanisms of all kinds, printed circuits, all these elements perfected over the generations of mechanical soldiers who have succeeded one another since the first days of the ship’s manufacture. Little Soldier follows a corridor marked out by luminous spotlights embedded in the floor. From room to room, one floor after the other, he finally arrives in front of a closed door. After a few seconds, the door opens sideways, and an officer welcomes him in what will be his dormitory during all the crossing. He will not be alone. It is a dormitory of 500 beds and no one knows how many dormitories like this one are contained in the immense ship. So many little soldiers, like him, are committed to life and death, for the ultimate conquest. After having shown him his bed, n° 299-B, the officer addresses him this lapidary sentence: “You are tiny, but you are useful”. An hour later, a siren sounded, the ground shook. The ship is leaving. A strange feeling invades the little soldier, as if he was in an elevator. A message resounds in the loudspeakers, “Go back to your beds immediately, imminent immersion”. The warlord’s ship is a submarine! The little soldier barely had time to settle into his bed before he felt himself being carried off into the depths of the ocean, at a dizzying speed. In a few minutes, the IMPERTURBABLE reaches its cruising depth, at -3200 feet.
In groups of 30, the little soldiers go in turn to the training room, then to the showers, then to the canteen, then back to the dormitory. The loudspeakers broadcast propaganda messages in the form of heroic stories. At 10:00 pm, the lights go out. You must sleep, because the alarm clock is at 3:00 am. Little Soldier must be kept in perfect physical and mental shape for the big battle. However, he can’t fall asleep.
What is he doing here, in the bowels of this underwater monster? Will his life really change when the Septentrion is defeated, crushed by an army of little soldiers?
Is he only that? A tiny being? Is his real life just a useful life?
Little soldier falls asleep on these questions, which he asks himself for the first time, and to which he has absolutely no answer. But already the lights come back on, military marching music fills the loudspeakers. Little soldier stands at attention, like all the others.
For him, it is no longer a question of meditating on the noble meaning of his fight. The infernal war machine has been set in motion. He, a small soldier, very small, tiny, is enrolled in a conflict to which he feels alien. Worse, he does not want this war. He hates the one he has become. Of course, he wanted to fight. But to finally be free, free of this miserable life in which he did not fit in, did not feel at home. That’s why he had followed the path of the warlord. For, according to his precepts, the warlord was to lead him to the freedom he so longed for. But now he finds himself the tiny but useful pawn in a strategy that has been cleverly devised, without his knowledge, all along. For how long? For years, centuries, millennia, astronomical cycles? But where do these thoughts come from? They also seem foreign to him. “It is the call of the Septentrion”, he hears in his heart…
One more day to wake up, exercise, shower, have a meal, then rest. Little Soldier obeys. He is not different from the others. He is just… called by something else. But the warlord has not forgotten him. While the submarine begins, very gradually, in a calculated slowness, the ascent towards the outskirts of the island of Septentrion, Little Soldier is summoned. An officer in white and black uniform of the personal guard of the lord leads him to the control room of the vessel. The master on board is there. He was waiting for him. Little Soldier distinguishes only his silhouette. He is tetanized by a fear that he has never experienced before, like a young antelope facing a lion a few seconds before the fatal outcome.
But as soon as he speaks to him, absolute fear turns into absolute confidence.
“Today is a great day, the day when your most intimate wish will come true. Your preparation is complete. You are ready. True, it did not go as you thought it would. But freedom has its own demands. You have transformed yourself. Are you aware of it? Within you is born the power of absolute control over your life. Did you really believe that you were tiny and useful? No, you are yourself, and no one can judge you or decide for you what is useful or not. Today, I offer you your inheritance, the kingdom of the seven lands. For this, you must reveal yourself in the ultimate struggle that will make us absolutely free. You have the strength. But do you have the desire, the will? Until now, you have been useful. Now you are essential. Without you, it is impossible to defeat the Septentrion. Now go put on your armor and prepare to conquer your freedom.”
Throughout his brief speech, the warlord had remained in the darkness of the control room. In this dark aura, two blood and gold beads could be distinguished, terribly disturbing. The eyes, staring at a specific spot above the little soldier’s head, as if they were not looking at him, but at another, larger one, less tiny.
The door to the control room opened and the officer led him back to his dormitory, bed 299-B. Then it was time. As he put on his armor, he thought about the lord’s words. He had the strength, but did he have the desire, the will? A crucial question, vital, unavoidable. Before committing himself body and soul to the fight, he had to answer this question. If not, the struggle would answer for him. Yes, something in him had changed. Was it because of this particular preparation? Or was it something else? But what was it, the call of the Septentrion? That strange questioning without an answer?
He had now donned his armor and put his trusty saber in its scabbard at his left side. It was an unprecedented and anachronistic situation: a tiny soldier in armor, carrying a saber, in a huge submarine, ready to fight against a homeland that had called him to its heart.
The front deck of the ship lowered, and the warlord’s army surged onto the shores of the island. Septima, the capital, was close by. The inhabitants of Septentrion did not oppose. The warriors were advancing in conquered country. However powerful he was, something was bothering the warlord. Riding on his royal tank in blood and gold, he looked scowling and disgruntled. He ordered a few executions, to set an example. But the more he advanced with his invincible army towards the capital of the last region that had never been conquered and that offered no resistance, the more he felt his thirst for power overwhelm him. And no submarine could have protected him from this submersion. So, he unleashed his anger. Little soldier had drawn his sword. He had the strength. His desire and his will were now imposed upon him by his master. The gates of the city of Septima cracked under the battering ram. But this aggressive madness was vain and useless. The IMPERTURBABLE no longer honored its name. An irreversible disturbance had occurred in the system of the very powerful warlord. A tiny (but very useful) flaw in the armor that was considered invincible. A weak point, immemorial and unalterable, which the warlord cannot do without. Because without this weak point, no conquest is possible. A crack just wide enough to let a sigh of non-combativeness pass through it.
Little Soldier wanders around the city, looking for an enemy to defeat, the price to pay for his freedom. But the city is deserted with an intense and poignant void. At the bend in an alley, he sees an old man, in rags, sitting on an old carpet that has been worn away at all four corners. Little Soldier approaches him and calls out, “Who are you, and what are you doing here, when all the inhabitants of the city have fled?” “I am the one and only inhabitant of this city,” replies the homeless man. If such is your desire, if such is your will, and if you have the strength, then take my life, and you will become, in your turn, the one and only master. This city is your home, this island is your homeland. It does not matter how you got here. You have heard in your heart the call of the Septentrion, and you have answered it. No power, no lord, can compete with that call. The Septentrion cannot be subdued, nor conquered, as long as its call is heard in the heart of one tiny little soldier. I leave you the keys to the city. It does not belong to you, but you now hold the keys. Climb the ramparts, contemplate the extent of your kingdom, look at the warlord who, having found nothing here that interests him, returns, perched on his imperturbable but useless ship. He thinks, “I don’t care, I’ll find another little soldier, I’ll always find one.” He thinks he can count on tiny beings to satisfy his thirst for power indefinitely. But you are no longer a tiny soldier. You are an inhabitant of the Septentrion homeland. The real life holds out its arms to you, the immense life, without limits, and without war.