| "The Emperor's Return" |
Yannis Pappas was a sergeant in the Greek army. He served in the 2003 war fought between Socialist Greece and the Soviet Union on the one hand and Turkey on the other. On June 7, 2003, he led the first squad of Greek troops to enter Istanbul with the intent of reclaiming it. Pappas was a devout Communist, but even he maintained an almost religious awe of the city.
While the Greek advance seemed unstoppable on June 7, fierce fighting on the streets of Istanbul took a heavy toll. Three days later, their MICV was destroyed, and only Pappas, Taso Kiapos, George Nikolaidis, and a soldier named Spero were left of the squad. The four made their way to Hagia Sophia. Despite the heavy casualties, Greek forces had taken most of the city. After entering Hagia Sophia, Nikolaidis immediately fell to his knees and began praying. No sooner had he begun than a light appeared in the floor, and a man carrying a sword stumbled out of the light.
Pappas quickly introduced himself and demanded to know who the stranger was. The stranger identified himself as Constantine XI Palaiologos, the last Byzantine Emperor, who'd vanished in battle in 1453. Since then, a legend had grown that Constantine would return when Constantinople was again in Christian hands. Once Constantine introduced himself, Spero fled Hagia Sophia. Pappas briefly considered shooting him, but decided he couldn't blame Spero. Nikolaidis then explained to both Pappas and the emperor the legend.
Pappas was initiallly unsure what to do, until Constantine announced his intent to reassert his rule. Pappas quickly realized that far too many Greeks would be ready to follow him. Indeed, Nikolaidis immediately swore his loyalty to Constantine. Pappas feared that Constantine might find sufficient followers to provoke a civil war, a civil war which might give the USSR an excuse to invade Greece. As Constantine and Nikolaidis began making their way out Hagia Sophia, Pappas quickly confirmed that Kiapos agreed that Constantine could not be allowed to rule. They then confronted Constantine and ordered him to halt. Pappas informed Constantine that Greece had outgrown rulers such as he, and that miracles were too much trouble. When Nikolaidis tried to shoot Pappas, Kiapos instead gunned Nikolaidis down. Constantine was horrified that Pappas had murdered his comrade; Pappas informed Constantine that Nikolaidis had not been part of his faction. Constantine, angrily remembering the factionalization that had plagued Greece in his time, and refusing to believe that God would abandon him now, attacked with his sword, and was immediately shot dead by Pappas.
Pappas and Kiapos left the two bodies in Hagia Sophia.