A Necessary Death

The Roman soldier jumped off the pier onto the beach. The screams of the siege were dying down over Syracuse. The sandy stretch was almost empty, except for one man writing in the sand.

“You there,” the soldier said in Greek, “Who are you?”

“I am just a mathematician. A philosopher,” said the old man without lifting his head.

“A philosopher?” the solder stood with his feet wide apart, pointing a finger, “So you study nature. I am a poet, so I create.”

“But you also destroy. You are a soldier, young man, are you not. Have you killed many of my Greek brethren?”

The soldier looked at the sword, all covered in dry blood. There were splashes of blood on his chest plate. There was blood on his knuckles.

“I,” the soldier spoke calmly now, “Am Gaius Ludicus Maximus, a noble-born citizen of Rome. And who are you?”

“I am Archimedes. Just Archimedes. My friends call me Archie.”

“You do not take part in this war? You surrender to the Roman Empire lightly?”

The Greek raised his head, furrowed his brow. “I do not. I have defended the city actively. What I lack in muscle power, I make up for in intellect.”

The Roman soldier smiled, “Then tell me this, little Greek. Will your intellect deflect the blow of a sword?”

The Greek got up. He was a short man, balding, aging, slumping. His belly stood out a little, and his face was all wrinkled. He had some mathematical instruments in a neat bundle at the belt. He looked the Roman straight in the eye, defiantly.

The soldier stood tall over the man, a mountain of muscle and steel. His brown eyes were full of fire, his lips stretched in an ironic smile.

“No matter what you do,” said Archimedes, and then he whispered to Gaius.

The short sword entered Archimedes’ belly swiftly, with almost no sound. The Greek embraced his killer’s thick arm, leaned on it, his eyes already looking into the underworld, a darkness spreading from there to infinity.

The soldier let the body drop to the sand.

“You there,” a Roman scout shouted from the pier, “We are looking for Archimedes of Syracuse, the inventor of anti-siege weapons. The general will pay handsomely to whoever finds him.”

Gaius laughed.

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