CHAPTER 28 (1975-1978) – I
After three decades of competition against his Other, the Champion of Dark was the strongest he had ever been. His strategy to lure Aricame into a years-long conflict with Evan Tim had proven fruitful. Aricame had made moral compromises while developing his technologies which resulted in lasting inequalities and deep cynicism amongst his ranks. And yet, despite all this, Aricame, too, stood more powerful than ever before. They were both adding more followers every day, doing so at an accelerated rate. The whole world’s population was in play. Direct conflict, whenever that would be, would be total.
In response to this challenge, Stievo formed the Ahriman Group. This collection of powerful, loyal allies infiltrated governments around the world in order to manipulate policy to his liking. Stievo’s own harsh views of justice continued to be a guiding principle. Poverty, hunger, crime, and inequality were all targeted by his regimes. They did so, however, with an iron fist. The prisons swelled and dissenters were disappeared, but those who remained free often enjoyed the quality of life they were being given. The group cared not for democracy (“mob rule” in their eyes), preferring skilled leaders with the autonomous power to implement their vision.
The process of gaining power over government officials was sometimes complicated. Champions could mentally manipulate individuals/groups to do their bidding, but this was more difficult when the targets were “free thinkers” by nature. Most humans wanted simple answers that made them feel comfortable. When given a simple nudge in a direction of safety, they would readily go where directed.
But the critical thinkers (few and far between though they were) required more extreme measures. That was when Stievo had fun. He would send plagues of mosquitoes, severe droughts, or roving bands of marauders, only to show up in person to wipe them away with a wave of the hand (this worked especially well in religious cultures). He would manipulate the minds of business leaders and drive the local economies into decline, only to demand full planning of the economy in return for restoring order. And occasionally, when feeling short on creativity, he would simply murder a bunch of people until he got his way. This was his least favorite strategy, for he did not enjoy the spilling of blood. He just saw the loss of a few lives as a reasonable price for gaining control over the larger collective.
The Ahriman promise of security and comfort was on the move.
Over at the basketball court, a Team went up against Five Guys
Through up and down and thwack and thwart, a pattern as old as time did arise
The Team was the disciplined sort, unified “we” crushing the “I”s
But not to sell the Five Guys short, at least they’re free of a coach they despise