When Giants Fall

In the Byzantine capital of Constantinople, night arrived quietly, ushering in the peace that comes after a long day of hard work. Iron cast street lamps across the city created small islands of warm light on cobblestone streets set down thousands of years ago. A lone figure made his way through the darkness, a bounce in his step and a song on his lips. Gregory had finally made it home after his daring escape from New York, the American plans for the new city in his grasp. The spy was positively beaming as he made his way to the home of Justinian, a nod of the head for every man he met, a tip of the hat for every lady, and a bow and blown kiss for the pretty ones.

In the distance, Justinian's palace came into view. Gregory slowed to a stop and checked his watch. 8:41, so I've still got time! He took a right off of the city's main street and made his way through the city's business center. Massive sky scrapers of steel, concrete, and glass were all the Byzantine could see when he arched his neck to look straight up into the sky. The city buildings cast off brilliant lights, as if they were great Christmas trees, which made navigating the streets a simple task. The spy moved swiftly, fearing what would happen if his report was late, but also anticipating the sight he would see when he finally reached his destination. As neared he neared the palace, Gregory turned right again, heading down to the harbor. This part of the city was a complete contrast to the one he had just left. There were no lights coming from the buildings at all. But it was far from feeling dead. A cacophony of power tools, laughter, and hard work filled the air as Gregory went by, and he could see men, women, and even children working by flashlight in order to get their projects done.

Eventually, Gregory reached the harbor, the quiet waters swaying softly with the wind. On the far bank Gregory could pick out the subtle shapes of hundreds and thousands of tubes. Great banners hung above them, moving in time with the water. Gregory sat down at the bank of the harbor and smiled, beginning to feel excited for tomorrow.

"It's already looking fantastic, wouldn't you say?"

Gregory nearly leaped into the air, surprised by the familiar voice. Behind him, Justinian was smirking, "I saw you back in the city and when you started moving in this direction, I tailed behind." The Byzantine ruler walked over and sat down next to where Gregory had been sitting before he was startled. Justinian gestured for Gregory to return to his original position, "Since we're both here, you might as well tell me what you've got now. Besides, talking is more relaxing outside than that stuffy old palace anyway. Accepting his king's offer, Gregory sat down, handed over the American blue prints, and quickly relayed what he had heard and seen. Justinian sighed, shaking his head, "Slaves and even prisoners of war? I can't believe how far Washington is willing to go anymore." He looked into the sky, "Ah well, I guess that's just something we'll worry about later. In the meantime, it looks like we've got a celebration tomorrow!" Justinian returned his gaze earthwards and surveyed the opposite bank as Gregory had, "I can't believe it's already this time of year again. I guess even when you've lived as long as I have, birthdays just have a way of sneaking up on you."
"Sir?" Gregory looked at him questioningly. For a man claiming to have lived long, the king looked as if he were still in his thirties. Justinian looked at him with faint confusion before smiling, "Oh yeah, you're relatively new to the game, aren't you?"

"The game?"

"This game," Justinian gestured into the air, "A game of thrones and empires, treaties and wars. It's been going on for thousands of years now, but always with the same players."

"I…see…" Gregory was still confused, but wasn't sure how to continue the conversation.

Justinian laughed, "I guess your next mission will have to be about learning all of this. Next month, head out to the Egyptian province and find Erika, one of our senior spies. I've been having her dig up some new possible information; because sometimes this mystery confuses even me, and I've been involved from the get go!"

The Byzantine king stood up, "But first, enjoy yourself, tomorrow especially! A We Love the King Day celebration here in Constantinople is something you should never miss out on."

With that and a wave of his hand, Justinian left Gregory alone to ponder.

End of Chapter

A/N: Ah, I'm back! Sorry if you've been holding out on this being updated for the past 14 months. But it's back!