The Sockdolager

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from the Summer 2017 collection

A Look at the Rise of Jihyun "Sardonicus" Layne From Pirate to Chancellor Through the Official Communiques of Her Predecessor

by Jeff Xilon

Excerpt from Chancellor Waite’s address of 1.1.2253

As a slight aside, I have been receiving very colorful reports of piracy in the Callisto Corridor. Though my councilors and I take both piracy and the safety of our hard working citizenry very seriously—and have already dispatched extra patrol craft to maintain the sanctity of trade and travel—we are concerned about the potential for rumors and false reports to get out of hand.

If there are pirates operating in the area, I am sure they are no more capable or fearsome than the sort who have occasionally turned their efforts to such endeavors in the past. Let us not reward such villainy with the telling of ego-boosting myths that only further encourage such acts. For example, I am certain that the crew serving this “Captain Sardonicus” does not include an uplifted ursine. As I’m sure you are all aware, potently dangerous animals like these are required to have safeguards against violence included in their sentience-modification programs.

Be vigilant, my fellow citizens, and together we will continue to remain a secure, safe, and stable solar system.

* * *

Chancellor Waite’s 1st full address dedicated to the Red Flag Pirates, dated 22.3.2253

My dear fellow citizens, it is with a heavy heart and a red face that I write to you today. As many of you no doubt remember, I recently made note of a new pirate threat operating near Callisto.

I am ashamed to say that my words then gave a careless estimation of the threat posed by these parasites. Despite an increased military and police presence the actions of one Captain Sardonicus continue unabated and, indeed, have increased in frequency and scope. For this reason, I write to you to not only express the most sincere and heartfelt apologies for my mischaracterization of the problem, but also to provide you with important facts and guidance on the matter.

I still believe we must refuse the nefarious pirate and her crew the weight of rumor and myth and shine the cold hard light of truth upon her. Therefor please note:

Captain Sardonicus’s band is known to be flying a ship designated the Red Flag.

Their piracy is currently focused on the outer solar system, though its range has expanded well beyond the Callisto Corridor to include areas surrounding most of the outer colonies.

Yes, this includes the raid upon the Rhea orbital which occurred two weeks ago.

In yet another correction to my previous statement, it has been confirmed that the Red Flag pirates include a bipedal sentient bear (specifically of the species ursus thibetanus) answering to the ridiculous moniker “Sergeant Scruffy Snout” among their number.

Despite their self-styled military titles, I can assure you that these people (and bear) have never been members of our military.

Though regular citizens are not expected to fight back against armed outlaws, I feel compelled to remind you that providing aid or support to outlaws is as strictly punished under the law as the piracy itself.

As always: be vigilant, stay safe, and report any information you may possess about these violent and disruptive marauders to your local authorities immediately. We have let you down in this matter so far, but rest assured we take Sardonicus and the Red Flag pirates very seriously, and they will be dealt with.

To that end, I have ordered that this message, with its promises and warnings, be spread through all official channels and to every government posting and agency so that the full force of our will may be brought to bear on the matter.

I am sure you will sleep well in that knowledge.

* * *

A private government communique of Chancellor Waite’s, also dated 22.3.2253

My fellow ministers, magistrates, and commissaries: it should go without saying that I am more than a little embarrassed at having to issue a public apology over this Sardonicus matter. These pirates need to be dealt with before the embarrassment grows any larger. I am authorizing level 5 interrogation options for use on anyone suspected of aiding or being a member of the Red Flag Band. The Commissar of Titan should perhaps start with some of his own people to discover why there was an hours-long delay in responding to the Rhea raid. These pirates must be dealt with now; we cannot afford further cracks in the veneer of our efficiency and control.

Oh, and since I have been informed that Sardonicus and her people are absolutely ex-military, I would like to know just how they slipped past the screening and monitoring programs put in place to avoid such career changes. Scruffy Snout in particular worries me—I want a review of all military uplift programs’ loyalty components. I am hoping very much that this is a fluke, and that we haven’t been somehow putting loyalty to commanding officers ABOVE loyalty to the government itself.

To work, people. I want answers.

* * *

Chancellor Waite’s 2nd full address dedicated to the Red Flag Pirates, dated 11.5.2253

To each and every law abiding citizen—from Mercury to the Kuiper Belt—I must begin with an unprecedented second apology in regards to the ongoing matter of the Red Flag Pirates and their leader, Captain Sardonicus. Recently, you may have read some material circulating in back channels and grey-zone networks purporting to be excerpts of official, and secret, communiques sent from myself to other government leaders.

I assure you most strenuously that these materials were all fraudulent. Why, then, do I apologize? Why, for the discomfort such frauds must induce in you, the loyal citizen. For that, and for the fact that the Red Flag continues to operate seemingly unimpeded by our best efforts.

So I say most humbly: I apologize. As a symbol of how sorry I am for these continued destabilizing incidents I have ordered this message to be broadcast across every communication platform and public channel in addition to the usual methods used for official communication.

I would also like to once again help you distinguish myth and rumor from truth.

As claimed in the fraudulent messages, supposedly from myself, we have confirmed that Captain Sardonicus’ legal name is Jihyun Layne, originally from the Venusian cloud-archipelago settlements. Yes, although the “excerpts” were fake, they did contain some truthful information. It seems the crew of the Red Flag are familiar with the age-old advice to always mix some truth in with your falsehoods.

What is not true is that Layne’s family or communities are being in any way punished for her crimes. Given the revelations of her identity, her family has been taken into protective custody. This step is necessary, as we fear victims of the Red Flag or their families might seek vengeance upon Layne’s family.

Likewise, while various communities of predominantly Korean and/or Barbadian descent may notice a heightened government presence, that is only because they are obviously likely places for Sardonicus to go to ground. Of course, should anyone know of any Red Flag sympathizers within those communities, the increased protective presence will make it that much easier to report.

I hope the next time I have the pleasure to communicate directly with you, my fellow citizens, it will be to announce an ending to Sardonicus’ terrible blaze across the solar system. Keep in good health, and keep vigilant.

* * *

A private government communique of Chancellor Waite’s, from 11.5.2253

All right, folks: enough is enough.

We all know one of you is responsible for disseminating pieces of my previous private communications. This message is to let you know you will be found. We have our suspicions, and once they are confirmed, I promise you, you will find yourself volunteering to test the limits of just how far down into Jupiter’s atmosphere our mining operations can go. Anyone with knowledge of the traitors who does not want to also become a canary in the mines will report what they know, immediately.

* * *

Chancellor Waite’s address dedicated to “The Red Flag Rebellion,” dated 11.5.2253

To my fellow order and peace loving citizens, I cannot lie: things have gone from dark to dangerous. It is now clear that despite the atrocities committed by the crew of the Red Flag many of our less peaceful neighbors are moving from admiration to open support for the evil Captain Sardonicus and her monstrous crew. Some are even taking up arms themselves and calling for open rebellion.

Still, with peace and order ever our goal, I say to those citizens now: please reconsider your choices. All those who lay down their order-transgressing notions and forswear violent rebellion will be welcomed back to the embrace of society.

I, all loyal officials, and your peaceful fellow citizens desire nothing more than to hold you in that embrace.

Furthermore, I want you to know that I know many of you are flocking to Sardonicus’ cause because she has declared a desire to turn away from the Empire and return to the democracy and free elections of the Solar Collective.

I understand that desire deeply, I do.

Was it not I who first told you a mere fifty years ago of my desire to do just that selfsame thing, as soon as possible?

The coup which first brought myself to this exalted position was undertaken expressly for the purpose of rooting out corrupt power-mad officials from the Collective. Such a major cleansing project is not done easily or quickly.

So I ask you all, loyal citizen and potential rebel alike: allow us the time needed, and we too will return you, as promised, to a democratic state. I can’t promise to be as “fun” as the Captain and her crew are pretending to be. I don’t have a fuzzy second-in-command with a silly name, nor do I think a five-standard-hour-long laughing marathon flooding all interplanetary communications channels is particularly funny.

It is an excellent way to ensure police, military, and rescue operations are unable to respond to rebellious attacks, though. I’ll give you that. No, I can’t promise such “fun,” but I can promise an orderly and peaceful transition to democracy and collective progress.

Finally, to Captain Sardonicus herself, I have this message: Think hard upon what you are attempting. Take it from one who knows—it’s not all roses and sunshine on this side of a rebellion.

* * *

A military-only communique of Chancellor Waite’s, from 8.11.2253

Greetings, loyal comrades-in-arms. Captain Sardonicus is slowly, but surely, gaining support amongst both the general populace and civilian members of government. The longer she avoids capture, the more people will stop calling her outlaw and start calling her rebel.

I think we, of all people, know all too well were that road leads.

It is time the populace and the Captain’s potential allies learn the truth of her savage ways. From now on, there will be NO survivors of her vicious assaults upon the citizenry. I am quite sure I will also be appalled to soon learn of how we now have physical evidence that she has a tendency to feed defenseless people to her compatriot, Sergeant Scruffy Snout.

* * *

Chancellor Waite’s address dedicated to the loss of Titan, dated 9.3.2253

Citizens, today we mourn. For the first time in over four decades our solar system is no longer united as one. By seizing control of Titan, the Red Flag Rebels have stolen one of our collective jewels and taken a little piece of every loyal citizen hostage in the process. To the citizens of Titan not being tortured by Sardonicus or marched to Scruffy Snout’s dining table: your plight will be brief and temporary. By this time an armada dispatched to liberate you from the rebels should be on Titan’s doorstep. To everyone else, a plea: let the chaos end. Add no more voices to the evil Captain Jihyun Layne and monstrous Sergeant Scruffy Snouts’ choir of anarchy.

* * *

A private government communique of Chancellor Waite’s, from 11.1.2253

Three ships. Why am I being allowed to broadcast promises of armadas when we’ve only dispatched three ships? My fellow remaining ministers, magistrates, commissaries, and military leaders, please allow me to drop all pretense and just lay it out: we are very nearly done-for.

I can only assume, given the way the solar winds are blowing, that you remain loyal only because your own records of corruption and previous rebellion will have you joining me first up against the wall, as they say, once Sardonicus has taken power. If anyone remains in the IT division perhaps they could, oh, I don’t know, at least try and get the footage of the Titan “liberation” parties off public access networks? It’s a little difficult to sell Sardonicus and Scruffy Snout’s murderous intentions with footage of them dancing with kids leaking out. Anyone with any other ideas, be they bright or borderline, had best bring them up now, because, my friends, otherwise we are all bear food.

* * *

Chancellor Waite’s Official Notice of Resignation, dated 1.1.2254

To all of my former fellow citizens, loyal or otherwise, I write to you on this supposedly auspicious day for change, the first day of a new year according to the (recently reinstated) standard Solar Collective calendar to announce my official resignation.

I’ll be brief.

I hope you will remember my tenure as one of strong and fair leadership which brought peace and prosperity, though I suspect you will not. Perhaps unsurprisingly, I have been not-so-subtly informed that future officially-sanctioned school software is unlikely to share my ambitions in this matter.

Be that as it may, I will stand by my record—in court, most likely—for the rest of my natural life, which I hope to extend for at least a few more years on appeal.

To the newly-minted Chancellor Sardonicus: Congratulations on your successful revolution. Good luck. You’ll need it. Trust me.

Finally, on behalf of the new Chancellor I have been asked to inform you that all media requests be forwarded to her newly appointed Press Secretary: Sergeant Scruffy Snout (ret). Frankly, it’s a brilliant appointment, and I wish I had thought of something similar in my own time in office. I suspect you’ll all have no problem sticking to the pre-approved question list now.

So, goodbye. I will hold down my nausea long enough to wish you all good luck, and I hope you’ll do the same for me. I figure we’ll both need it.

Jeff Xilon is a writer and photographer who lives in Sudbury, Ontario, Canada. His stories have previously been published or are forthcoming in Fireside Magazine, Daily Science Fiction, and Ares Magazine. He writes about things that catch his attention in speculative fiction, comics, music, television and more at, and you can find him on Twitter @JXilon.