The Transfer Federation’s blockade held firm. The young Mackem would not be disposed of for a fraction of his value, especially not to facilitate a deal for an aging relic with fading powers. It didn’t matter what the Three Envelopes of Brendan foretold, Hendo was staying.
Darth Brendan liked to think of himself – and for others to think of him – as an apprentice of Darth Jose, a protégé who would one day be the master himself. The trouble was, he had dropped out of the course early and had only learned some of the techniques. He still had the dossier of handouts he’d taken with him, filled with wonderful sounding theories and the odd typo, but without the accompanying lessons and anything like enough practice a lot of it just didn’t make sense.
Not that any of that stopped Darth Brendan.
One quality he had picked up early from his master was an amazing level of self confidence. Some called it arrogance, but without that self belief he never could have sold himself as the new Manager and the man to repair all the damage still lingering from the great civil war of a few years before.
That war had started when a weak leader who let his advisor do all the talking and make most of the decisions, sold out to two evil men from a country far, far away. The evil men were in league with each other at the beginning but were soon at each other’s throats as they battled to be the supreme leader of what they both liked to think of as their own little empire. To make their initial plan work the evil duo had formed an alliance with a Royal entity, which provided finance to them, but would become an enemy to them both.
As the short evil man battled with the tall evil man the Royal evil entity sent another evil man in, masquerading as a Christian and known to some as ‘Cecil’, who totally forgot what it was he was sent in to do, which was to protect the Royal interests, and started to meddle in affairs that were not part of his remit and of which he had no experience, other than four seasons on a simulator.
As if this isn’t confusing enough already, the Royals sent another man in to do the original role so that the Christian could continue his meddling. The Christian had by now demoralised all the soldiers and their general, the last man to win any battles for them. The general left and plans were put in place to continue to trade their best soldiers for the best price available.
The replacements the Christian brought in were as ill-suited to the task as it is possible to be.
He oversaw the introduction of one soldier still ruled by his mother, who just so happened to despise the side her son was now meant to be fighting for. An aging soldier, still carrying the wounds of previous battles, was given a King’s ransom to fight for the cause but was generally worn out by the time he’d put his battle gear on.
To lead these new ‘warriors’ he brought in a man who knew the importance of a good handshake, which knife and fork to use and how to order a medium rare steak in six different languages. A Hodge, he had never won any honours worth speaking of in the field of battle, unless you counted a couple of paint balling certificates picked up in distant sparsely populated territories, but he knew a thing or two about Czech literature.
Six months later and the evil duo had been destroyed, the evil Royals had lost most of their hold over the Scouse Republic and the Christian had been shown the door along with his Hodge. Behind them lay the smoking ruins of what once had been a proud football club.
The new custodians had learned much from the mistakes of the old and saw that the people needed a uniting force. They brought the old King back and gave him their backing, but not for long. Some say it was all a ploy, bring in the popular man the people were crying out for, set him impossible targets and then sit back – at a safe distance – as his popularity starts to take a hit. The new custodians were ruthless and calculated but it would be a many years before anybody knew whether that would be to the benefit of the Scouse Republic.
Having used the power of great expectations to rid themselves of one popular leader, they now brought one in who they felt would always be able to meet expectations. He might meet them by lowering them first, but he would meet them.
He brought his notes to the interview, they listened, and for reasons they still aren’t completely sure about, they found themselves saying: “This is the ‘yes man’ we’re looking for.”
He wasn’t a yes man though. The Hendo disposal attempts showed that as did the fact the people who helped him tell his stories seemed to have knowledge of a continued blockage of his own targets by the Transfer Federation.
Before the Transfer Federation existed the work to bring in new men to fight the battles was orchestrated by a shadowy figure known only as Comolli. Comolli liked to be totally right or totally wrong. His dealings with the Geordie outlanders didn’t end well, but his capture of a raw fighting machine by the name of Suarez was inspired.
In fact it was Suarez that would prove to be the biggest aid to Darth Brendan as he aimed to prove he would not only have made a worthy apprentice to Darth Jose but that he was now ready to prove he was a master himself.
He did a very, very, convincing job of it.
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The war of 2014 was fought with great honour and could have been won, only for him to find out in the hardest way possible that he was still no match for his old master. The old master did not care for honour in victory and was happy to use whatever method succeeded. He put up a wall his old apprentice had no way of working out how to break down. His apprentice wanted victory when a draw might have been enough, and the harder he got his men to fight for that victory the more frustrated they became. One slip, from his longest serving soldier, was blamed for the defeat but deep down Darth Brendan knew his old master had used his experience to get one over on him.
It was an honourable defeat and retains a place in folklore, but future generations glancing at the history books will find no mention of it in a list of honours. Second place in a battle with nineteen others is nothing more than a foundation to build on to go that one step further.
Darth Brendan knew this and spoke of doing so the following year.
Having criticised one of the other armies, the Hotspur, for their catastrophic failure despite huge investment in 2014, he knew he had to get it right. He was given the means to strengthen his army – although it would later be claimed the Transfer Federation did all the choosing – and set about taking that next step.
Unfortunately, the Transfer Federation and Darth Brendan made the mistake that had become a habit for the Scouse Republic even before their arrival. They sold their best asset to buy a selection of lesser assets. The Suarez, the catalyst for all that was good in 2014 was off to find glory somewhere else (and he would find it). The Suarez’s apprentice, The Sturridge, was chosen as the new catalyst.
The Sturridge was rarely fit for battle.
So a new catalyst was found. The Sterling may be of tender years, but he would be capable of holding all the weight on his shoulders, Darth Brendan thought. The Sterling would be sent out to battle in ways he’d never been taught how to battle and could sense that Darth Brendan’s ship was sinking. He left the sinking ship as soon as he could, claiming he wasn’t a mercenary as he was transported to meet the very wealthy benefactors of his new army.
Darth Brendan was not an evil man, despite what some said, and that may well be why he struggled to take on board all the ideas from the dossier he had built up during his time with Darth Jose. He was no Darth Jose, and few men are – for all kinds of reasons.
He tried everything in the dossier, including the ultra cautious approach, but generally only succeeded in frustrating his own men – not to mention the people they were meant to be fighting for. He continued to rely on some very bad weapons.
In the end though his biggest problem was the one that he had brought with him a few years before.
In fact one particular section of the dossier. The section that had never quite worked, the section that had never really been tested to any success.
The Scouse Republic found a new leader, one who was rapidly inspiring not only his men but all the people they were fighting for. There were still smouldering ruins, but he was slowly putting the fires out. The presence of the dark side was finally starting to fade.
Meanwhile, as Darth Brendan sat on a distant beach wondering where it had all gone wrong, he started to read through that one section of the dossier again to see just what he had missed.
He picked it up, turned to the page and read the title out loud.
“The difficult third year, by Darth Jose…”