A Turn of the Wheel
|A Turn of the Wheel|
|First published||14 September 2010|
|Era||Succession Wars era|
|Timeline||3 October 2821|
|Series||Operation Klondike (series)|
|“||In our second Operation Klondike story, Lance Scarinci takes us through one man's redemption and revelation among the newly-returned Clans.||”|
 Plot summary
An elderly hermit named Kong Jing-Xin, who scratches out a meager existence in the territory of the Democratic Republic of Rand, receives a visit from Star Commander Dale Keller of Clan Blood Spirit. Jing views Keller's respectfulness and friendliness with suspicion, since such traits are rare on war torn Arcadia. Though Jing half expects this to be an attempt at levying taxes or committing robbery, he is surprised when Keller simply asks for directions, having gotten lost after a firefight with a Rand combined-arms company.
Jing gives Keller directions and grudgingly offers rabbit stew when the Blood Spirit warrior asks if he has food to spare. He warns Keller not to take his battered Wyvern into the city of Tian-to, but the Clanner responds that he's not too worried. (Tian-to was the first Rand stronghold to fall, and is now in fact a Clan base of operations.) Jing tells Keller that he was an engineer before the wars, but had to abandon his trade when he fled the fighting. He makes a living by trading his exquisitely detailed woodcarvings to supplement his subsistence farming.
During dinner, Jing tells Keller that he was studying civil engineering when the Amaris Coup took place, and that he enlisted in the SLDF as a combat engineer with the 129th Mechanized Infantry Division. He spent the war working out ways to undermine Castles Brian. On Arcadia, he was the primary architect of Rivera, and intended it as a masterpiece of urban planning. He bemoans the loss of his city, which was despoiled and ruined by war, tyranny, fear and neglect. Jing posits that the SLDF personnel who comprised the Exodus colonies were suffering en-masse from PTSD, which left them emotionally and spiritually damaged—thus the brutality of the Pentagon Civil War.
Keller recounts that he was still a toddler when the Exodus Fleet arrived in the Pentagon worlds, but acknowledges that his demobilized ex-SLDF parents fought often, and beat him regularly. He grew up with the impression that nastiness was the normal state of being, and he treated others accordingly until growing out of it. Jing tells Keller that he fought with his own son, Wu, who wanted them all to leave with Nicholas' Second Exodus. At the time, Jing told Wu that he'd already followed one Kerensky to disaster and wouldn't do it again, and that if Wu left, he would have no family to return to.
Keller takes his leave, but not before inviting Jing to return to Tian-to and join in the process of rebuilding not just the city, but a better society for all of Arcadia's inhabitants. Over the following months, Jing visits the city twice and sees concrete proof of Keller's promise of a better life. One day, as Jing is working on woodcarvings of the Steel Viper and Blood Spirit emblems, he is visited by Keller and a Steel Viper comrade. Keller introduces Jing to his son, Wu (now Wu Callaghan, who changed his name to match his wife's after their marriage on Strana Mechty). They celebrate, and Jing pledges to help the Steel Vipers build a new city on Arcadia.